[Review] – Celeste And Jesse Forever

20 Aug

Title: Celeste and Jesse Forever
Year: 2012
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Writers: Rashida Jones and Will McCormack
Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts, Eric Christian Olsen, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Rich Sommer
MPAA Rating: R, language, sexual content and drug use
Runtime: 91 min
IMDb Rating: 6.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Metacritic: 62

Celeste and Jesse Forever is a film that really worked for me, and that I really knew would when I went into it. The script was written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, and if life actually followed the conventions set forth by romantic comedies, those two would be happily married by now. But life doesn’t follow those clichés of the genre, and so when they were introduced by Mr. McCormack’s sister in the late 90’s, right after Ms. Jones moved to New York, they dated for a few weeks and then realized that they were meant for each other, but as a life-long friends and creative collaborators, not as a romantic couple.

That’s not the fairy tale ending one would expect, but such is life, and that’s the starting point the two took off from when they started the four-month journey that was writing this screenplay. It focusses on the two titular characters, the female half played by Ms. Jones herself and the male counterpart in the hands of Andy Samberg. When the film opens they’re ending their marriage, but on the best of terms, seemingly super ready to embark on that awkward-as-hell love-to-friendship transition. It’s a comedy in that a lot of the stuff that follows can be quite hilarious, but the film doesn’t shy away from the more harsh facts of that reality, and the inevitable heartbreak that comes when one of the lovers-now-friends starts embarking on a new romantic relationship.

When I said at the beginning that I knew the film would work for me, I said it for two reasons. For one, I have the hugest crush on Rashida Jones. That crush is not solely because she’s absolutely gorgeous (though she seriously is), but also because she’s fantastic in everything she does, whether it’s playing Paul Rudd‘s fiancé in I Love You, Man or, of course, as Ann Perkins on NBC‘s Parks and Recreation. Plus, the girl is just seriously smart, as evidenced by every single interview she gives, every single thing she’s written (which includes the comic book series Frenemy of the State), and the by the fact that she went to Harvard. Yeah, quite the catch this Rashida Jones.

The other, more important reason, as to why I just knew this film would work for me, is that I had already read the screenplay before sitting down to watch the movie. And I loved that screenplay right of the bat because I adored the dialogue and the rapport that existed between the two leads, and it was a thrill to see that it translated on the screen so damn well with Ms. Jones and Mr. Samberg playing them. The whole cast of this film is really top-notch and they’re charming and make you just like the hell out of the film; Andy Samberg (who’s been in That’s My Boy, one of the most horrible films of the year) is actually really good here, and then there’s Ms. Jones, who people should just start embracing as a true leading lady from now on, she’s the bees knees.

It’s fun to see how Ms. Jones and Mr. McCormack have structured this whole thing. While their own romance lasted only some weeks, Celeste and Jesse have been married for years, and then suddenly he just moves into their backyard studio and they remain best friends, though no longer romantically involved. And this sudden dissolution of the relationship, especially the fact that they’re still best buds, frustrates their other friends to no end, who don’t understand neither why they broke up in the first place nor why do they insist on remaining friends that hang out and live together.

The wonderful thing about this screenplay is that the most clear way in which it defies the genre conventions is that it makes these lead characters, and really every supporting one too, feel very much real and it makes us care about them and their feelings quite a lot. You get why Celeste and Jesse were attracted to each other in the first place, and it’s cute and amusing how they have all these inside jokes only they get and how much chemistry they have, but you also get why Celeste had to end the relationship. She’s an ambitious woman, ambitious enough for the both of them, and he’s just a man-child, and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with their relationship, she realizes that it could so much better.

Even though this is a film that may seem kind of easy to pull off because of how easy it goes down, trust me when I say it’s really not. It’s not easy to build a film about people like this, about this man-child and about this woman who, yes, maybe quite charming, but is also rather messed up in a way. Romantic comedies usually aren’t about characters like these, let alone do they have the balls to actually poke at these issues as much as Celeste and Jesse Forever does. This is a movie that’s just sincerely trying to approach the topic of just how you should behave, for your sake and for the sake of the other person, once a relationship is done with, and it’s our gain that it does so with such a brilliant screenplay and wonderful performances.

Go see Celeste and Jesse Forever, it may not have changed the rom-com genre forever, but it certainly stands as one of the best films in it in the past few years, and it does so much to successfully avoid the conventional trappings of it that you just have to applaud it. You have to applaud that, and the fact that it’s not afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve, and you have to applaud the fact that not only did this writing couple delivered a fantastic screenplay, but that Ms. Jones actually took the Celeste part and owned it. She’s the best thing about this movie, and I expect and hope like crazy that I’ll be able to say that about many more to come in the future.

Grade: A-

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