The Films of Lee Toland Krieger
The Vicious Kind
Celeste & Jesse Forever (July 28/12)
Written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, Celeste & Jesse Forever follows married couple Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) as they attempt to remain close friends despite their decision to divorce. (It goes without saying, of course, that complications ensue as both characters begin to date other people.) Filmmaker Lee Toland Krieger does a superb job of immediately luring the viewer into the pervasively affable proceedings, with the almost compulsively watchable atmosphere heightened by the two leads' charismatic work and by the inclusion of several laugh-out-loud funny instances of comedy. (In terms of the latter, Elijah Wood, cast as Celeste's colleague, puts a frequently hilarious spin on the gay-best-friend stereotype.) It doesn't hurt, either, that Jones and McCormack's screenplay boasts plenty of relatable truths that effectively elevate the film above its similarly-themed brethren, and, by that same token, the sprinkling of genuinely moving moments (eg Celeste delivers a touching speech at a friend's wedding) within the narrative ensures that Celeste & Jesse Forever possesses more depth and resonance than one might've expected. The engaging vibe does, generally speaking, compensate for the movie's somewhat underwhelming third act, with the continuing emphasis on Celeste's rock-bottom exploits draining, to a certain extent, the energy from the otherwise engrossing proceedings. It's worth noting, however, that the whole thing does recover for an admittedly strong finish, with the end result a better-than-average romantic comedy that benefits substantially from the efforts of its personable stars.
The Age of Adaline
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger, The Age of Adaline follows Blake Lively’s title character as she stops aging in the late 1930s due to a freak accident and subsequently passes through the decades without remaining in one place too long – with Adaline’s transient existence threatened once she finds herself falling for a hunky philanthropist (Michiel Huisman’s Ellis). Filmmaker Krieger, working from a script by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz, does a thoroughly impressive job of drawing the viewer into the proceedings right from the get-go, as the director takes a novelistic approach, complete with ongoing narration, that paves the way for an instantly absorbing atmosphere. It’s clear, too, that the movie benefits substantially from Lively’s engaging turn as the somewhat tortured protagonist, while the chemistry between Lively and Huisman heightens the effectiveness of their scenes together and the impact of their tumultuous relationship. The novelty of the premise and briskness of the opening stretch eventually gives way to a comparatively conventional midsection, and yet it’s not as disastrous a transformation as one might’ve feared thanks mostly to Krieger’s steady hand behind the camera – with the film, though slightly overlong, boasting a number of compelling plot twists that keep things interesting throughout. (There is, for example, a late-in-the-game subplot involving Harrison Ford that injects the proceedings with a jolt of energy.) By the time the satisfying (yet admittedly predictable) conclusion rolls around, The Age of Adaline has certainly lived up to its unusual setup to become a better-than-average contemporary romantic drama.