Rashida Jones as Celeste and Andy Samberg as Jesse. Click on the 'Play' button above to watch the trailer for Celeste and Jesse Forever.
By Simon Miraudo
November 27, 2012
(Republished April 22, 2013)
It seems a little unfair that Rashida Jones - the great talent who has long gone unappreciated and underrepresented on TV shows The Office and Parks and Recreation – didn’t get a meaty big screen role until she wrote one for herself. Celeste and Jesse Forever isn’t her film debut; she’s impressed previously with supporting performances in I Love You, Man and The Social Network. Having penned the screenplay for this flick with co-star Will McCormack, she succeeds where the rest of Hollywood has failed over the years, and uncovered the totality of her talents. Well, maybe not the totality. It’s such a promising piece for her as both an actress and screenwriter, it may only be a hint of what she could accomplish in the future.
None of this is to say Celeste and Jesse Forever is a brilliant movie. There are a few too many distractions from the central struggle: the dissolution of a relationship between two people who were friends first and husband and wife second. Closer in tone to the bittersweet Ruby Sparks than the straight-up soul crushing Blue Valentine, it successfully navigates plot developments that drive its two likable leads apart. Director Lee Toland Krieger does, unfortunately, indulge in many “hip” Instagram-inspired compositions that will infuriate any non Los Angeles natives (or LA natives locals with self-loathing). But if the lovely Rashida Jones was the sole subject of someone’s Instagram account, you’d likely subscribe to it no matter how clichéd and groan-inducing it was.
Jones and SNL-alum Andy Samberg star as the title characters (I’ll leave it to you to guess who plays whom); lifelong BFFs and, now, separated married couple. However, 'separated' may not be the right word for whatever they really are. The two still live together, spend all their time with one another, joke around, and go out on double dates with befuddled best friends (Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen). Celeste, a professional “trend forecaster,” couldn't imagine having kids with her goofy, flaky illustrator buddy, and is happy having reverted back to the way they used to be. Jesse is waiting for Celeste to come around and take him back; if he could escape the friendzone once before, doing so for the second time should be a breeze. One misguided night of passion between them creates a rift, and another development - which I won't spoil here - sets them apart seemingly permanently. When Celeste finally re-enters the dating world, she discovers that maybe being a “flaky illustrator” isn’t the worst attribute in a guy. Maybe the worst attribute is being a “shirtless singer,” or “mid-date masturbator,” both of which she experiences first hand.
Samberg’s incredible appeal – both comic and casual – is reason enough to buy Celeste’s lifelong infatuation, though it feels a little unfair that she is the one who ultimately winds up most distraught by their break up. Why should this smart, gorgeous, mostly with-it woman with an exciting career be forced to apologise for not wanting to stay married to a guy who sits around watching the Beijing Olympics while stoned? Quibble aside, seeing Jones go through the stages of grieving proves her to be an adept dramatic lead and a ferociously funny goofball too. Plenty of hilarious supporting performers have been recruited to fill out the picture's universe, including McCormack as their drug dealing pal, Chris Messina as a potential love interest, Elijah Wood as a business partner, and Emma Roberts as the trashy, Ke$ha-like musician that asks Celeste to rebrand her. Ultimately, they keep Samberg out of the feature for far too long. I suppose that’s part of the point – to watch Celeste crumble without her companion – but the ancillary plot threads feel like they’re there to pass the time instead of inform and build her character. When Celeste and Jesse are together, it's fireworks.
Celeste and Jesse Forever is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Pay Per Play from April 24, 2013.