Celeste and Jesse Forever
Directed by: Lee Toland Krieger Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Will McCormack, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Eric Christian Olsen Running Time: 1 hr 31 mins Rating: R Release Date: August 10, 2012 (Chicago)
PLOT: Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Samberg) try to maintain their friendship as best buds despite going through a divorce.
WHO'S IT FOR?: If you're a fan of either Jones or Samberg, prepare to see a different side of both, and don't expect this story of an unusual love to be very funny.
Celeste and Jesse Forever is the type of movie that's missing one crucial conversation. Some movies put characters through this conversation, and the relationship is saved because of it. Or at least, this type of conversation upgrades a samurai sword fight to a one-shot western duel. And you know exactly what conversation I'm talking about.
Considering the friendship between title characters Celeste and Jesse, two adorable friends who became lovers who make out in libraries who then become divorcees (the breaking point is cleverly the script's MacGuffin), it's not entirely believable the two would not have this conversation. In fact it's really, really frustrating that they don't, despite being so open with each other about being friends while going through a divorce, and even still making hand gestures of love towards one anther. If the script is 100% being coy of stripping us of that, it's working triple overtime to make a single point about the imperative nature of communication when real feelings are on the line.
Because of this, the concept that makes Celeste and Jesse Forever different from any other movie might look like collapses in terms of believability, taking down our chances of investing ourselves in these unusual circumstances with it. The idea of trying to stay best friends with someone you're also divorcing proves to work better as a metaphorical concept than the flesh and blood presentation Celeste and Jesse Forever tries to present.
As the story moves to its second half (of which Jesse is mostly out of the picture, but lingering over all of it), we are left to see Celeste walking through the snow, holding her guts, fend off freakshow blind dates, and all other samurai metaphors while she works on establishing inner strength.
Rashida Jones, steering most of this ship on the skills of her comedic and dramatic talents, is able to maintain her charisma through the movie's emotional ups and downs. In some parts she can look great, a chip off the chic L.A. block, and in other moments, she's still watchable as a broken soul whose self-destructive habits include gorging on mayonnaise and getting high with her friend Skillz (played by co-writer and real Jones best friend Will McCormack). Jones even keeps her character interesting through the events of this story when Celeste is a challenge to like (such as when she gets snotty to Chris Messina's character Paul).
As chic as it may be, and as much as it might be interested in making something more naturally emotional out of its unique dilemma, Celeste and Jesse isn't without clichés that humble the screenplay. When will scripts stop making characters have self-reflective speeches during their friend's weddings? It's not just a waste of the audience's time (we've already seen Celeste's thoughts during the movie's moody second act), it's also rude to the friend. Stop doing that, cinematic spoil sports.
While the story only has a few kind-of funny jokes, it is more or less atmospheric, something that isn't strong to enough to keep this thing from dragging (especially when we simply don't accept its concept). But the film is certainly boosted by its passionate leader, Jones, who shows most of all that in her future, a great performance and a great script is waiting for her.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10