Sundance 2012 Review: Fall Out of Love With ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’ in Rashida Jones’ Impressive First Feature
It’s often said that believing you will spend forever with the person you fall in love with in high school is a naïve notion and, while the opening montage of Celeste and Jesse Forever seems to prove that the opposite is true, once the film begins we realize that our leads, Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg), are actually separated and looking to get a divorce. The strange thing is, they still spend every second together and are only “separated” by their back yard, with Jesse now living in his studio out back rather than in the main house with Celeste.
It is clear from the start that Celeste and Jesse are more than just a couple, they are each other’s best friends, complete with inside jokes and hand signals clearly established over years and years of knowing one another. There is a level of comfort and familiarity between the two that neither seems ready to let go of, which frames the central conflict of both their relationship and the film. Over dinner one night, two of their friends, Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen) and his fiancé (Ari Graynor), call them out on the odd state of their relationship stating that they either need to end things for good or get back together. Neither Celeste or Jesse think their behavior is strange, but the fact that they still say, “I love you,” to each other and can’t seem start their days until acknowledging one another seems to support their friends’ concerns.
Despite trying to start dating other people, one night with a bottle of wine and a failed attempt at assembling a frustrating Ikea dresser, the two end up falling back into old habits and, while Jesse thinks this is sign they are getting back together, Celeste has the complete opposite reaction. But when Jesse finds out that his life is about to change in a major (and permanent way), Celeste starts acting erratically as soon as the idea of losing Jesse forever starts to become a reality. Will things change for the pair?
With her work in Celeste and Jess Forever, Jones (who also co-wrote the film) proves that she can truly headline a feature project, giving a performance that, unfortunately, Samberg doesn’t always keep pace with. The chemistry between the two never quite pops, giving off more of a “we’re really good friends” vibe than anything else. Though this certainly helps play into the reasoning for Celeste and Jesse’s relationship falling apart, and makes it less much believable when we’re trying to understand how they got together in the first place. Celeste and Jesse Forever is not breaking any new ground, but it does add some nice layers and dimension to a story and characters we have seen before, making the film feel fresh and worth the watch.
The Upside: Sharp writing from first-time screenwriter Jones and Will McCormack (who also stars in the film as Celeste and Jesse’s friend and pot dealer) blends comedy and drama with enough realism to have you caring about these characters even as their relationship is ending and giving way to new beginnings.
The Downside: Elijah Wood (playing Celete’s co-worker and gay confidant) felt underused here, as did Emma Roberts as a Britney Spears/Ke$ha style pop star.
On the Side: While the movie is full of funny moments (Celeste with her head in a garbage can, for example), the name of the law firm Celeste and Jesse use to file their divorce – Stein, Weinberg, Steinberg & Jimenez – was a funny little side note that played well to those who noticed it.
Related Topics: Sundance