by August 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm 2,253 0

From Mary Burgan. Email her at mary[AT]

"rom-com"The main alternative to this summer’s loud and often obnoxious blockbuster movies is a “Rom-Com,” also known as a film with pleasant characters that fall in love and end a plot happily.

Contemporary rom-coms follow this definition loosely, but with differences that identify them as current productions. The main characters are apt to be “youngish,” but not really  young. They’ve had several “relationships” already, and the issue for them is to sort out a bunch of relationships in the hope of finding one that will last, rather than to search for the “one and only.” And the one main complication seems to be the male figure’s lack of a real job.

The plot usually has some anti-hero, like Paul Rudd, Seth Rogan or Jason Segal trying to get his act together or to make a commitment to a much more together female like Cameron Diaz, Katherine Heigl or Jennifer Aniston. And it’s important that the characters are really, really hip — sassy and knowingly witty.

But contemporary rom-coms are like all the old-fashioned romances, in that they feature happy endings. Despite everything, the couple gets together in the end. For example, Ruby Sparks features an imaginary heroine with a wonderful Rom-Com ending.

Many viewers have found Celeste and Jesse Forever too depressing to rank as a true rom-com. The question is whether the couple in the film are sufficiently happy in the end. What if the expected marriage of the leading couples doesn’t come off? What if the resolution leaves them sad but wise? Are our desires for happy endings so strong that we demand the expected in our rom-coms?

I like Jesse and Celeste Forever because it takes the risk of bucking our desires and giving us an ending that only struggles to be happy. In the process, Rashida Jones shows herself as a wonderful actress, able to accommodate the film’s comic pathos with loveable humanity. Jones delivers a perfect rom-com revelation, even though it hurts. Throughout the film, you’ll laugh, but you’ll also cry.

Go see Jesse and Celeste Forever and tell us what you think.

FinallyWashington’s Film Festival –“DC Shorts”– is arriving in Washington on September 6, and lasting through the 16th. Check DCSHORTS.COM out for tickets, passes and film descriptions. Unless you’re a genuine film freak, you’ll have to choose only a few from among many clusters of offerings. They can be really short — ranging from 2 to 20 minutes–but they’re all going to be interesting, so take a chance!

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