Rating: R (drug use, language, sexual content)
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: August 3, 2012
Directed by: Lee Toland Krieger
Stars: 3 out of 5
Rashida Jones has had a somewhat enviable career in Hollywood, considering how few really good roles there are for women. She starred in what is considered one of the best seasons of “The Office” and turned that into a series regular role on the much-lauded “Parks and Recreation.” She has been shown for her comic chops time and again on television, but she seems to be relegated to bland, thankless supporting roles in film. Thankfully, Jones is a spunky girl who decided that if she was going to be a lead and get to show off her range, she would have to write the part herself. That is exactly what she did, and “Celeste and Jesse Forever” is the result of her and co-writer Will McCormack’s screenwriting labor.
Jones stars as Celeste, who is really starting to move up in the world thanks to the hard work she has put in at the PR firm she works for. Her boss Scott (Elijah Wood) has a love for theater and appreciates all the effort Celeste is putting in at the firm. They have what could be considered a professional relationship that is more than a friendship, with Scott eagerly, and admittedly, trying to fill the vacant spot as Celeste’s gay best friend.
Her real best friend is Jesse (Andy Samberg), her soon-to-be ex-husband. Unlike Celeste, Jesse has a profession at which he doesn’t try to give his best. Despite being a talented illustrator, he is also a total slacker, preferring to smoke pot and live in the shed in Celeste’s backyard than trying to make a success of himself. It is implied that this is a big reason why the two broke up in the first place. Despite the demise of their romantic relationship, they are still best friends and spend a lot of time together.
The fact that the two are still so close and seem to have no animosity toward each other really freaks out their friends, who do not think this is normal at all. This is why “Celeste and Jesse Forever” really works-because it does something very different from other romantic comedies. In most romcoms, if the inevitable couple is broken up at the beginning of the film, they usually hate each other thereafter. A lot of chaos ensues, and then they get back together before the credits roll. In this film, the couple has amicably broken up and remained friends, which is a refreshing twist on the usual romantic tropes you would find in movies today.
Celeste seems ready to finalize the divorce and move on romantically more than Jesse is. In fact, he may just be unemployed and hanging out at her house so that he can continue to be closer to her in hopes that they can reconcile. His friend Skillz (co-screenwriter McCormack) tells him the best way to see if she still has feelings is to begin seeing other girls. Jesse decides to do just that, even fibbing to Celeste that it is getting serious. She doesn’t betray her emotion to Jesse, but the camera shows a slight flinching that could mean she has been hiding her feelings all along.
Of course, Celeste has to begin dating again, too, so she can see if she is as over Jesse as she thinks. This is the only part of the movie that seems formulaic, as Celeste’s dates are mostly bad. In fact, some of them go horribly wrong, which leads to some big laughs. Then she meets Paul (Chris Messina), who may change everything, including the ending of the movie. Perhaps Celeste and Jesse won’t be forever as the title suggests.
There is a surprising amount of drama mixed in with the comedy for a film with two big comic actors in the lead. Samberg has cemented himself as a comedian through his many characters on “Saturday Night Live” but shows some range here in his dramatic scenes. This is a side of Samberg that moviegoers have not seen yet. If movie executives are paying attention, it may just net him a dramatic role or two. Jones also shines in the spotlight, proving she has the screen presence and acting skills to be the primary in a studio movie.
Whether Samberg and Jones will enter the big movie star fray after “Celeste and Jesse Forever” is unknown, but the film proves that they should. It also proves that Jones is an able screenwriter who, unbeknownst to audiences this whole time, is a true double threat in Hollywood.