Celeste and Jesse Forever (Sony Pictures Classics, R)

film celeste-jesse_smEven the divorce can’t keep them apart, despite the fact that they have definitive proof that a romantic relationship between them just doesn’t work.

 

film celeste-jesse

On the surface, Lee Toland Krieger’s new movie Celeste and Jesse Forever looks like a fairly typical indie romantic comedy. And it isn’t that far off from that, really, but there’s a lot more going on in it than what it appears on the surface. To start, it was co-written by its star, Rashida Jones, who has gotten good roles on TV but has always been embarrassingly underused in the film world. Her co-star, Andy Samberg, is the same way: good TV roles (if you count his work on Saturday Night Live as more than one role), underused in film.

A good example of the way these two have historically been used in movies can be seen in 2009’s I Love You Man, which they’re both in. Although it is not really a bad movie, neither actor is really given enough to do to make much of an impression. So, our girl Rashida (who really everyone should like by this point; I’d go so far as to say that I’m kind of sad that Jim picked Pam over Karen) wrote a role for herself, and it’s meatier than you might expect. (The other co-writer on the film is Will McCormack, who you also might know, and who has a smallish role in the film as a dude named Skillz.)

But back to the thing about how there’s more going on in Celeste and Jesse than what it might initially appear: It is actually more of a drama than a comedy, when it comes down to it, and there are at least two points in the film that are treated not unlike pretty major plot twists. The problem is, both of those plot twists come early in the film, which makes it really hard to write about without giving a whole lot away. So, for those of you who are pretty well already sold on seeing the film, just stop reading here. Don’t read any other reviews, and go see it. That’s not a bad idea if you’re on the fence about it, too; this is a pretty good movie, and I doubt you’ll regret it.

For those of you who still need convincing, I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum. Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Samberg) are best friends, and clearly meant for each other. They have great chemistry, and the same sense of humor. They have the history, they trust each other, they do everything together. But, we find out maybe 15 minutes into the movie that they’ve already been together: They’d been married, but it didn’t really work out, so they are in the middle of getting a divorce when we meet them. But even the divorce can’t keep them apart, despite the fact that they have definitive proof that a romantic relationship between them just doesn’t work. Even in the midst of divorce they’re very close, best friends, and they seem like they’re together in the romantic sense when, say, they meet their other friends for dinner. Needless to say, their behavior with one another creeps out basically everyone but Celeste and Jesse themselves.

Not that everything about the film is well done; it is a little rough around the edges. One of its major failings is a burgeoning friendship between Celeste and teen rock star Riley (Emma Roberts), who is presumably modeled after Miley Cyrus. The whole of those sequences seems false to the extreme, despite Roberts being just fine in the role. Still, I’m willing to turn a blind eye to problems like that on account of the things Celeste and Jesse gets right. I mean, how can you not like a film whose characters love Biz Markie? | Pete Timmermann

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