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Celeste & Jesse Forever

About.com Rating 2 Star Rating

By

Celeste & Jesse Forever
Sony Pictures Classics
Celeste & Jesse Forever is the screenwriting debut for actors Rashida Jones and Will McCormack. The two attempt to subvert the romantic comedy genre by following some of its conventions while revealing its main couple, played by Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg, are going through a separation and divorce. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger, who showed off a smart, dark sensibility in 2009’s The Vicious Kind, this film exhibits a development stunted by being too tightly wrapped in its own conceit. Neither funny nor dark, Celeste & Jesse Forever cowardly avoids a much-needed push in either direction.
Celeste & Jesse Forever begins where most romantic comedies start to roll the credits. A photo montage displays the moments of the couple’s growing relationship. They meet, grow up together, and get married. In the car, they sing along to pop music on the radio, discuss an understood opinion about Los Angeles architecture, and bring a lip balm to climax—a sad, contrived schtick that occurs in the movie more than once. However, a double date with their best friends in the planning stages of their own wedding (Ari Graynor and Eric Christian Olsen) coyly reveals the two are separated and headed for divorce.

Although professing to still be best friends, Celeste (Jones), a Type A trends watcher with her own marketing company and newly published non-fiction hardback, is pushing for release from husband Jesse (Samberg), a slacker artist living in his converted garden shed studio in the backyard. Under these conditions, Jesse cries frequently and harbors hope for reconciliation, yet he’s the first to date outside the marriage and through a chance meeting learns that a dalliance from three months previous will soon make him a father. Seeing Jesse’s newfound maturity in the face of this news, Celeste decides she may have been too hasty in her decision to boot him out of her life.

For a small, indie-type film, the characters in Celeste & Jesse Forever are surprisingly underdeveloped. The film sadly follows recent trends in romantic comedy with the uptight, ambitious female lead making concessions for the unapologetic, forever-adolescent male lead. It makes sense for Celeste to want freedom from being Jesse’s caretaker, so the reversal of that decision is disappointing. A bold move for the film would have been to lose Jesse less than halfway through. Forever, indeed.

The storyline does focus more on Celeste’s reaction to the breakup than Jesse’s. Still, it never seems to reveal her true personality. Celeste is never allowed to really wallow or go off the deep end. She spirals out of control by smoking a little pot and putting her hair in a messy ponytail. One of her work projects has an undesired subliminal message, and she gives a slightly embarrassing speech at her friend’s wedding. But there’s nothing final, revelatory or changing here. Think of Kristen Wiig’s chocolate fountain breakdown in Bridesmaids.

Overall, the film is uneven and shallow. Celeste has friends who never break their stereotype or through her cool shell. Emma Roberts is dragged out as a Britney Spears-type pop star who has the best insight into Celeste, but it’s not used to any lasting effect. The rest of the ensemble is window dressing, particularly Elijah Wood, who is awkward in his gay forcefulness. McCormack gives a turn as a creepy but sweet potential suitor, but that also ends going nowhere. It’s impossible to root for Celeste because she has no desire. She wants Jesse back just because she can’t have him anymore. It’s not real. She goes on a few dates, she finds a new market, she keeps her emotions in check. She’s neither likable nor really unlikable. And in a movie that hangs on her every move, that makes us all stuck in her “dark, little prison.”

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