Celeste and Jesse Forever is smart, touching

Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg amuse and surprise in this indie rom-com.

Celeste and Jesse are best friends, and about to be divorced (from each other). In a world where it’s commonly believed that exes can’t be friends, they seem to live in their own private, alternate universe. Celeste and Jesse Forever — which I liken to an indie version of last summer’s Crazy, Stupid, Love, but without the multiple intertwining plotlines — is a smart, surprising, and relatable film that subverts several Rom-Com tropes while also indulging in them at times.

In her screenwriting debut, Parks and Recreation actor Rashida Jones stars alongside Saturday Night Live’s Andy Samberg. Celeste (Jones), whose point of view dominates the film, is the successful owner of a media-consulting firm and a recently published author. I know what you’re thinking: the woman’s struggle juggling her career and love life is an exhausted trope of the romantic comedy. But never once in the film is Celeste’s commitment to her company questioned and never does it waiver. Yes, Celeste is getting divorced and is having a tough time in her personal life, but it’s not because she’s a workaholic. How refreshing!

On the contrary, Celeste’s best friend since high school and soon to be ex-husband, Jesse (Samberg), is a struggling artist who she has supported — both financially and emotionally — for years. So although Celeste’s flourishing career doesn’t contribute to the failure of their marriage, it’s clear that the stark contrast between her strong-minded, rational businesswoman and his more emotional, laidback artist-type does contribute to the rift that opens between them.

In an attempt to preserve their friendship, however, Celeste perhaps a bit prematurely calls for a divorce. At the start of the film, Celeste and Jesse have been separated for about six months. Jesse is living in the guest house, they hang out every day, and things are running so smoothly that it makes the audience wonder why they separated in the first place. Their relationship is drawn with a deft hand in that the weirdness of their inside jokes and habits alienates others (the audience and other characters alike) while creating a palpable sense of closeness that we can relate to. The chemistry between Jones and Samberg is outstanding, both during the lighthearted and dramatic moments.

However, it’s soon clear to the audience that Jesse is in denial about the divorce and after a drunken misstep one night, Celeste too realizes that she has been careless with his feelings. Their amicable façade devolves rather quickly, when Jesse begins seeing someone else and their relationship progresses rapidly. One aspect of Jesse’s new relationship is particularly unexpected, and feels forced as it complicates things more than I personally think is necessary, though it does evoke yet another facet of Jesse and Celeste’s issues.

Celeste begins to spiral emotionally, slowly at first and then rapidly as she realizes how cavalier she was in ending their marriage. She goes on a few dates, lashes out at a few of them, stuffs her face, rummages through Jesse’s garbage, gets drunk in public, and of course makes a heartfelt but ultimately inappropriate and embarrassing speech at a large social event (in this case a wedding). The writing is excellent in that it reflects Celeste’s unsettled mindset and keeps the audience wondering what will happen and even what they want to happen. Should Celeste and Jesse give it another shot? Or should they just be friends? Can they be friends?

Ultimately, the film is fun but complicated. It’s not an air-tight narrative, but it wouldn’t work if it was because that’s not how real relationships are. If this film is anything, it’s relatable to real people. Everyone knows how difficult and chaotic break ups can be, but Celeste and Jesse Forever shows that if you fight for it you might not have to let go completely.


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