Celeste & Jesse Forever | Film reviews, news & interviews
Celeste & Jesse Forever
Rashida Jones finds breaking up is hard to do with her own post-romcom script
The romcom is an oddball. Though an ever-present at the multiplex, of all the genres it remains notoriously reluctant to take wing. The path of true love ne’er did run without all the usual box-ticking plot swerves. Full credit then to Celeste and Jesse Forever, for coming at the problem from a sideways angle. In this reimagining, boy and girl have lost each other before the start of the movie – they’re divorcing – but are still best of friends. In fact, creepily so.
Celeste (Rashida Jones) is a thriving PR executive and finger-on-the-pulse author of the self-explanatory Shitegeist. She can take the culture’s temperature, but is less adept at reading her own life for signs of malfunction. It takes a pair of friends, themselves heading for the altar, to point out how weird it is that Celeste and Jesse are acting as if the split never happened. Jesse (Andy Samberg), a struggling artist, still lives out back and, while they may not be having sex, they cleave to an icky private joke in which small inanimate penis-shaped objects – lip-salve, minor vegetables - can be coaxed into ejaculation. (Do not ask.) Then they do accidentally have sex, which triggers a deeper sundering. Jesse takes up with a one-night stand called Veronica (Rebecca Dayan) who, it turns out, is carrying his child. He decides to give it a go.
The place is absolutely littered with confidantes and sidekicks like toy soldiers on a battlefield
From this point on, Jesse ducks in and out of the movie as the script sets itself a test: to make a touching comedy out of watching a separated young woman move on. Jones co-wrote the script with Will McCormack (who also plays the film’s stock stoner), and dutifully puts herself through an assault course of comedic situations, shamelessly plugging her book in the local bookstore, rummaging through bins, jogging up a muck sweat, facing down the prettier pop bratlet (Emma Roberts) her company is promoting. Meanwhile, although she's by no means ready, Celeste embarks on a series of dates with men who are all variously unsuitable: too young, too smooth, too into wanking themselves off.
That’s not something anyone could pin on Celeste & Jesse Forever, which enthusiastically works through every position in pursuit of narrative nirvana. The place is absolutely littered with confidantes and sidekicks from central casting, all deployed like toy soldiers on a battlefield. “Get your fuck on,” counsels her colleague (Elijah Wood, pictured above), before backtracking. “I was trying to be your saucy gay friend. Didn’t feel comfortable.”
That kind of goes for the whole project, whose frenzied commutes between big laughs and deep pathos leaves a void where they really should have put the humanity. Veronica is an absolute nullity, Jesse simply wastes away while, for all Jones’s commendable skill as a comedian, Celeste’s vacillation between self-knowledge and denial as she works through her need always to be right just doesn’t compute. Director Lee Toland Krieger uses this big-screen gig to try out a few jumpcutty moves, and there are plenty of chortles. In short, there's just enough partying and self-pitying here to fire up the chick-flick demographic, but in daring to veer outside romcom’s codifications, Celeste & Jesse Forever doesn’t know what to do with the freedom. And that title is truer than it knows: it nearly does go on forever.
Watch the trailer to Celeste & Jesse Forever
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Burt Lancaster is a model of subtlety in Visconti's most candid self-portrait
theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top films out now
Exemplary package celebrating Ken Russell’s compelling DH Lawrence adaptation
Almodóvar's moving portrait of a mother's grief, adapted from Alice Munro
Alex Cox’s account of punk rock’s ill-fated duo takes a ride to the heart of darkness
Charisma battles desolation in moving documentary of Ukraine's lower depths
A reputation's tatters are shredded in convincing detail
Atmospheric debut film inspired by Sartre novella on the nurturing of a fascist
New horror franchise isn't scared enough of the dark
John Schlesinger's seminal British New Wave drama about a couple forced to marry
Reassuringly cosy adaptation of Arthur Ransome's 1930 children's novel
Trouble in paradise for Blake Lively courtesy of a hungry shark