Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) were high school sweethearts who began as best friends and married after graduation. But flash forward six years, and they’ve decided to get a divorce.
Despite the end of their marriage, they hope to maintain their friendship. They don’t see anything odd about spending a lot of time together, continuing to say “I love you,” sharing a car or living on the same property (she in their home, he in the garage studio space). Though their friends warn them that it won’t end well, they carry on with this odd routine for months.
But when Jesse decides he’s ready to start dating other people and jumps into a new relationships, Celeste finds that it may be harder for her to get over the marriage than she expected it to be.
Celeste and Jesse Forever was directed by Lee Toland Krieger (The Vicious Kind) from a script by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack. Jones and McCormack both enjoyed successful careers in film and television prior to this film’s release, with Celeste and Jesse being each of their first forays into screenwriting.
I remember hearing a bit about this film when it came out. I like both Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg well enough, so it caught my interest, but I never ended up making it out to the theater to watch it. I decided to finally give it a watch back in August after realizing that I had access to a ton of movies through my cable provider’s website. (As though I needed more channels through which to discover films and spend all of my time watching them!)
I had high expectations for Celeste & Jesse from the opening, which shows the formation of the couple’s relationship through a photo montage accompanied by a Lily Allen song. The viewer then joins Samberg and Jones in the car, where they’re singing along (not very well, but enthusiastically) to the same song. Cute opening. So far, so good.
My expectations were also bolstered by the film’s unique premise. I can’t think of any other romantic dramedy that puts the focus on a divorcing couple who aren’t attempting to sabotage the future happiness of each other. There’s lots of potential for both comedy and dramatic complication here.
Celeste & Jesse did get a few laughs out of me early on, but it becomes increasingly dramatic as it progresses, making a pretty big transition of mood. I was glad to see the script explore how Jesse’s new relationship negatively affected Celeste, when she thought that she could carry on a best friend-ship with him forever.
On the other hand, the film does suffer in that we get to see less of the impact of these changes on Jesse. He shows up at Celeste’s house once to mope, but in general seems to take on all of the changes with a pretty nonchalant attitude. I would have liked to see more of a balance between the characters.
Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg both give solid performances in their roles, and the supporting cast is very good, too. Ari Graynor and Eric Christian Olsen play Beth and Tucker, two friends of Celeste and Jesse. Elijah Wood is Celeste’s co-worker/confidant. Co-writer Will McCormack is Skillz, the friendly neighborhood pot dealer. Emma Roberts is a pop star being marketed by Jones and Wood’s characters. Rebecca Dayan is Jesse’s new love, Veronica.
Having the list of favorite actors that I do, I can’t write this review without mentioning that one of those favorites, Chris Messina, pops up as Paul, a potential love interest of Celeste. His character is underdeveloped, only serving the purpose of leading Celeste to a revelation she easily could have had on her own: that she needs more time to herself before dating, after the divorce is finalized.
Even though the character’s kind of pointless, he’s a stand-up guy and *Spoiler* puts his probably-bruised ego aside to be very respectful of Celeste’s wishes when she breaks up with him mid-song at karaoke night. *End spoiler* The fact that he’s so respectful and kind to her leads me to believe the film should be retitled Paul > Jesse Forever.
I didn’t love this film, and I’m not itching to add it to my DVD collection any time soon, but it’s a decent watch if you catch it on TV or on demand. The score: 2.5/5