Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012) - Movie Review

When we first meet Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg), they come off as an almost annoyingly cute couple.  They enjoy hanging out together, profess their love for each other and share all kind of inside jokes. However, when having dinner with friends, Beth and Tucker, Beth (Ari Graynor) snaps that she can't take this anymore. You see, Celeste and Jesse have been separated for six month and in process of divorce. For their friends, their continued relationship is unhealthy, but C & J don't see anything wrong it. They are still good friends and don't understand why they can't remain that way. To everyone else, they look like two people that can't move on.

Celeste, a successful business woman, grew tried of Jesse's unemployed artist shtick and his lack of motivation to work.  She didn't see herself having kids with him, so she ended the relationship.  Jesse, however, thinks Celeste will come back around if he waits it out.

His friend and marijuana dealer, Skillz (co-writer Will McCormack), convinces Jesse to get back out there and date more.  He does and reconnects with a girl he hooked up with a few months back, and decides to make things work with this new girl.  When Jesse tells Celeste, she has a hard time dealing with this and she tries to get back out there herself, with mixed, and sometimes hilarious, results.  She also encounters some professional difficulty, so things spiral out of control for her and nearly hits rock bottom.

One thing I really liked about Celeste and Jesse Forever was that it doesn't turn to all the typical romantic comedy cliche's where you know that everything is going to lead back to them getting back together.  C&JF isn't about that.  It's about actually breaking up, moving on and finding happiness elsewhere.  Another thing I really enjoyed about the movie was that the characters were flawed, even unlikable at times, but realistic.

It's not a perfect film though.  I felt that the humor was a little inconsistent, maybe a little too broad throughout the movie.  Also, I was having difficulty getting into Celeste and Jesse Forever initially. The audience was laughing, but I couldn't help be think they were trying too hard to be cute. After about 15 minutes though, I settled in and as I learned more about the characters, I became invested in where things were going to go.  Don't get me wrong though, the movie is funny, but it just took me a bit to warm up to it.

I've been on a theme of simplification lately.  Celeste and Jesse needed it.  There were too many characters and subplots going on.  The movie drags a little bit, so trimming a few of these characters from the film would have make this a much tighter and interesting film.  I'm not sure this is correct, but the run time is listed at 90 minutes.  It felt longer than that.  Looking at the clock after the movie was over, it certainly seemed closer to 100 minutes or so.

It pains me to say it, as I liked the cast, but some of the characters were really throwaway.  Elijah Wood's character felt like it was in there just so Celeste could have a cliched gay friend, and was used for a few easy jokes.  There's a subplot with a Ke$ha-like character, played by Emma Roberts, that also wasn't needed to tell the story.  I liked both the characters, and I liked the performances, but the movie could have been told without them and those same points delivered by other characters already established in the film.  For example, towards the end you realize that Celeste and Jesse have been friends with Beth and Tucker since before any of them were dating. You wouldn't know that from the movie though.  Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen) really isn't given much to do in the movie, and it seemed like many of the points made to the Celeste and Jesse throughout the film, should have been delivered by Tucker and Beth, instead of being delivered by side characters.

I didn't realize until the credits rolled that this was co-written by Rashida Jones.  It makes sense as the story is really more about Celeste and her growth than Jesse.  As I've said earlier, her script cold have used some  simplifying, but I stilled liked how authentic the relationships and people felt. The movie also shows you that  Rashida Jones can carry a movie and is poised to take the next step to stardom.  I'm actually surprised this hasn't happened sooner for her, as I thought she was great in I Love You Man and on Parks & Recreation.    Her chemistry with Andy Samberg was believable and it was nice to see Samberg show a more serious side.  I haven't said much about Samberg, as the story doesn't focus on him much as it moves on, but he does get a chance to show some range and that there's more to him post-SNL.

Celeste and Jesse Forever is a realistic look at a breakup and moving on.  This may hit a little too close to home for some you, especially if you've either gone through a breakup like this or know someone that has.  It's a frustrating, emotional roller coaster that nobody wants to deal with.  As far as indie dramedies go, much like Ruby Sparks, this is a different look than what you typically see and worth watching.  It's funny and smarter than your average dramedy.  I recommend it as a matinee, but it may not be the best date movie since it's about a breakup.

3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars


  1. Great review Erik. This film really took me by surprise by how emotionally realistic it felt. Jones and Samberg are both amazing in these roles and I hope that it makes Jones the big star she should have been awhile back. Quality rom-com that should be seen by all people struggling a bit with love.

    1. Totally agree! I was surprised at how authentic it felt and it hit really close to home.