- Running time:
- 90 minutes
- Rashida Jones -
- Andy Samberg -
- Chris Messina -
- Ari Graynor -
- Eric Christian Olsen -
Celeste and Jesse Forever (*** out of four; rated R; opens Friday in select cities) is the summer's most unpredictable, low-key and clear-sighted romantic comedy.
Tackling a genre that adheres to formula and standard tropes, the film's star, Rashida Jones, has co-written (with Will McCormack) a winning contemporary love story that offers refreshing surprises and characters who behave in believable ways.
This is a great breakout role for Jones, who has distinguished herself in movies such as I Love You, Man and on TV's Parks and Recreation. In her multifaceted performance, Jones comes off likable even when her character acts smugly off-putting. It's essentially her movie, since the story focuses mostly on Celeste. In the role of Jesse, Andy Samberg is boyish and endearingly goofy.
The film opens with the pair singing along with Lily Allen's bittersweet Littlest Things, which sets an appropriately nostalgic tone. Celeste is a driven media consultant who met Jesse in high school and married him shortly thereafter. Best buddies ever since, they clearly have a great time together. But Jesse is unemployed, spending his days watching TV and hanging out with friends.
Now 30, Celeste summarily decides they should divorce. When we meet them, they are separated but still hanging out together, sharing inside jokes with silly accented voices. Their best pals, Beth (Ari Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen), don't get it. Why don't they just stay together if they get along so well?
But Celeste has strong opinions on this matter, as she does most things. If they divorce now, they can stay good friends. Ever-passive, Jesse accepts her proposition. He lives in a bungalow behind her house, and as they go to their separate spaces, their longing is palpable.
Over time, it becomes clear that Celeste is not as certain, or as capable, as she appears. When Jesse begins to move on with his life, she realizes that the decision to divorce might have been wrong.
Celeste's knowing veneer cracks, and Jesse shows signs of becoming an adult. But none of this is standard-issue stuff. By the conclusion, each appears to have changed — but in realistic, incremental ways, not in the huge leaps and grand gestures typical of Hollywood rom-coms.
The unlikely trajectory of Celeste and Jesse's relationship is convincing largely because of the chemistry between Jones and Samberg. A snarky-turned-sweet subplot with Emma Roberts as a pop-star client of Celeste's is less effective.
Unlike most rom-coms, Celeste and Jesse Forever delves into the complicated heart of relationships, exposes some painful truths and allows melancholy to co-exist alongside breezy humor.
Movie theaters and showtimes for Celeste and Jesse Forever in Cincinnati.
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