When it comes to relationships, it’s pretty evident no one really knows what they are doing. You included. And me too. Unsure characters make for a fun movie, but unsure direction and storytelling doesn’t.
Celeste and Jesse Forever has exactly that, and is the latest in a string of movies seeking to alter the traditional notion of a romantic comedy (See Friends with Kids, Your Sister’s Sister). It stars TV darlings Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg as the titular pair seeking to continue a long-time close friendship having gone through marriage and a divorce.
The pair get along great, as an opening montage set to Lily Allen’s ‘Little Things’ suggests, and the early reveal that the two aren’t actually together is fantastic, but as the pair meander through their lives figuring out what to do, so does the movie. Celeste and Jesse Forever Together? Maybe, but maybe not. Here is just a bit of the myriad tones you get from a film that is as uncertain about the future as is the couple.
Celeste and Jesse Forever Cute: Teasing one another, making funny voices and goofy faces, and saying I love you.
Celeste and Jesse Forever Random: Making lengthy masturbation jokes, with props.
Celeste and Jesse Forever Serious: She is a busy business woman and writer, traveling the country, and staying on top of celebrity news and entertainment with her handy iPhone. He is a painter of sorts, who plays a lot of videogame and watches reruns. She does not approve.
Celeste Forever: Eventually film takes the easy route and focuses just on Celeste, laying the blame on her. Suddenly when Jesse seems okay with the situation (a new woman can help, yes), Celeste’s world falls apart; it’s not too overdramatic, but it is predictable.
Celeste and Jesse Hipster-matized (see also, Celeste and Jesse Instrgrammed): When the two are apart, we get treated to indeed some beautifully shots, especially of Celeste. The cinematography is gorgeous and full of emotion, but it fails to be more than a cliché. If you weren’t sure Celeste was sad, you now know it because the camera staggers, pulls focus, and ends up on a pensive Rashida Jones stare with her freckles taking prominence. Sad.
Celeste and Jesse Knocked Up: I’m not taking about pregnancy, I’m talking about having sidekicks and costars in a romantic comedy that become instantly more compelling when they are on screen (as so very evident in Knocked Up¸ a mediocre film that has spawned a much-anticipated spinoff staring Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann). Elijah Wood is fantastic in his small role as Celeste’s coworker, and Will McCormack (co-writer with Jones), is Skillz, a very charming scene-stealer mutual friend of a pot dealer.
Ultimately, the film is merely Celeste and Jesse Forever Ambivalent. They know they love each other, but they don’t know what to do, and the director doesn’t know what to do with them either. If not for some pretty imagery, good music, a fun supporting cast, and the natural charm of the stars themselves, the movie will elicit eye-rolls, not emotion.
Celeste and Jesse may be uncertain at times, and ever-changing, but that is what people do. They both have moments of humour, insight, and vulnerability, and they are allowed to randomly decide to alter their life and not know what they are doing. As a rule, though, a movie should know what it wants ahead of time, and this one doesn’t.
So enjoy it for what it is, then move on to the next one.