A film review by Craig J. Koban October 4, 2012
CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER
2012, R, 91 mins.
2012, R, 91 mins.
Celeste: Rashida Jones / Jesse: Andy Samberg / Beth: Ari
Graynor / Tucker: Eric Christian Olsen / Scott: Elijah Wood / Skillz:
romantic comedies have prescribed formulas that go through the motions
with such an excruciating banality and predictability that they might as
well have been the product of an off-the-shelf computer screenwriter
program. You get the
standard-issue male and female characters that have the obligatory
meet-cute, then get-together, followed by their blossoming love and
then further followed by some obstacle that gets in the way of their
happiness that’s unavoidably dealt with and rectified before the end
credits roll by.
of showcasing a young and likeable couple of twentysomethings hook up and
fall in love, CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER does something decidedly more
novel and compelling with its romcom material: It opens with a montage of
how Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jess (Andy Samberg) met, dated, fell head
over heels for each other, married…and then… mutually separated and
currently head towards a divorce.
is all relayed to the audience within the film’s first few minutes, which
establishes CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER as a romcom – somewhat like (500)
DAYS OF SUMMER – that seeks to radically deconstruct the nature
of how romcoms are executed. Much as is the case with life, the film seems to perceptively
understand that happiness and love sometimes does not actually conquer
every type of complication that arises in a relationship or marriage.
Sometimes, differences and conflict lead to heart-crushing break-up.
By showing a relationship that is terminated at the very beginning
of a romcom, CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER turns viewers’ expectations for
this inherent material upside down on their heads.
As a result, we are really not sure where this story is headed,
which is initially very liberating.
meeting in high school and then falling in love, Celeste and Jesse seemed
destined to be lifelong soul mates. Alas,
after a few years of marriage, they have decided to end it, but they both
mutually decide to be BFFs in the process, which perhaps is hopeless
naiveté on their part: people that “love” each other and want to
spend every waking moment with one another should…well…just be
together….right? At least
that’s what Celeste and Jesse’s best friends
- Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen) and Beth (Ari Graynor) - think.
They seem completely bewildered and weirded the hell out by the
constant chumminess of their formerly married friends.
They just find it creepy that two people that are on the verge of
signing divorce papers seem so damn happy to be together all the time.
did these two people reach splitsville?
On a negative, the film struggles to find a cogent rationale other
than the notion that Celeste – as a career minded trend analyst and
author – seems resentful of Jesse’s underachieving attitude and lack
of occupational growth as a painter.
Nonetheless, both seem satisfied with the current relationship
status quo that non-platonic love has all by died between them.
However, when Jesse decides to final get back on the dating saddle
and starts to see an old flame, Veronica (Rebecca Dayan), it discretely
bothers Celeste at first. When
Jesse reveals an unexpected piece of news regarding his increasingly
intimate bond with Veronica, it sends Celeste into a whirlwind of
conflicting emotions. She
begins to realize that she still pines after and loves Jesse, even though
he has decided to essentially move on.
of the limitless joys of CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER is to see its stars
Jones and Samberg create such tangible chemistry on-screen together;
there’s never a moment where you don’t doubt the authenticity of their
on-screen relationship and history. The
casting of the two is engagingly novel: Jones and Samberg are not
boundlessly gorgeous people, per se, that seem to occupy most high profile
romcoms. They are naturally
good-looking people that are also affable and good-natured, but they also
have flaws and make categorical mistakes that are often hard to forgive.
When the screenplay – written by Jones and Will McCormack (who also
appears in the film as a fun-loving friend and pot
dealer) – wallows in some silly story mechanizations, Jones and Samberg
keep the proceedings emotionally grounded by making their characters feel
believably conflicted, confused, and troubled by the oddity of their
relationship past and present.
seriously…why isn’t Rashida Jones a fully-fledged star and leading
lady by now? If anything,
CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER is a rallying cry for audiences and critics to
not only take the actress as a bona fide dramatic and comedic talent, but
also to highlight her as a performer that’s not afraid to throw her
vanity and ego out the window for a role.
When so many witless and contrived romcoms go out of their way to
make the female protagonists agreeable to the point of ad naeseam,
Jones’ screenplay and performance paints Celeste in less broad strokes. She is both a considerate soul that, when she allows herself,
is capable of egregious meanness towards Jesse that perhaps masks her own
insecurities about herself. I
liked how messed up Celeste is in the film, especially considering that
it’s far too often the men in romcoms that have to accept their
mistakes, deal with them, and then grow as individuals to earn the love
and respect of a woman. Samberg’s
sly and deceptive performance as Jesse also helps in this regard;
considering that this is the same comedian from SNL and HOT
ROD, I was frankly astonished at the nuanced and understated
performance he gives here.
all of CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER works.
There is a subplot involving Celeste dealing with a pop star client
(Emma Roberts) that seems superfluous and really goes nowhere, not to
mention that Elijah Wood shows up as the prototypical advice-dispensing
gay co-worker/friend that always seems to be the voice of reason for
Celeste. Also, Chris Messina’s role as a potential suitor to fill
the void in Celeste’s life seems woefully underdeveloped.
There are also times when the film cries out to be a
transgressively anti-romantic comedy and then allows itself to become
ensnared in the same type of artificial contrivances that befall many
similar genre films. Yet,
there’s ample and sometimes painful honesty in CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER
that separates it far apart from other insipid, TV-sitcom worthy romcoms,
not to mention that Rashida Jones and Adam Samberg create two fully
developed melancholic souls that don’t start out the film as friends and
then end happily ever after as lovers; that’s the road-most-traveled-approach
for this genre. No,
CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER seems more taken
in with whether a former couple can remains friends after a break-up by
the film’s conclusion, which is a vastly more intriguing premise for a
romcom...wouldn't you say?