Jones and Sandberg Shine in Bittersweet Comedy
Published: Thursday, August 9, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 9, 2012 23:08
Celeste and Jesse Forever is actress Rashida Jones’ first credit as a writer. It seems that she should keep at it, as her debut is a unique, interesting film that’s definitely worth the price of admission.
Jones, who is primarily known for acting roles in “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office,” wrote the screenplay in collaboration with Will McCormack, who, like Jones, also acts in the film.
The movie, an extremely untraditional romantic comedy, tells the story of Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg), a married couple who remain best friends despite being in the middle of their divorce. The two enjoy a very amicable and platonic relationship as well as mutual friendships with Beth (Ari Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen), who are engaged, and their weed dealer Skillz (Will McCormack). These friends, together with Celeste’s work friend Scott (Elijah Wood), play important roles in the plot as mechanisms to elucidate the thoughts and feelings of the two main characters, while simultaneously expressing discomfort with the peculiarity of the circumstances.
Celeste and Jesse are at ease around each other, providing entertainment with their inside jokes and quirky antics. However, the story is deeper than this lightness, and the film effectively illustrates more emotional aspects as the characters evolve in light of the situation. As they each come to terms with the divorce and the need to lead separate lives, Celeste and Jesse face awkward encounters, difficult decisions and emotional exchanges in their path to independence.
Rashida Jones is wonderfully convincing in her role as a successful, dysfunctional woman who is at a point in her life she doesn’t fully understand, no matter how hard she tries. Jones is alternatively and appropriately hilarious and emotional, making the character easy to empathize with as she adapts to her new life.
Although it took a while to get accustomed to him in a more serious, non-“SNL”-esque role, Samberg also excels in his performance, demonstrating his full acting arsenal. The two are convincing together, both platonically and romantically, and they convey a sense of intimacy and comfort that draws viewers into the relationship. The cast as a whole was extremely impressive, and, with help from the script, provided casual, believable performances and colloquial conversations that make you understand their characters as real people.
The story combines many elements and balances them well in order to entertain. There are parts that are highly emotional and others that are inspiring. There are also parts that are comical, such as when Celeste interacts with peculiar individuals, including a troubled teen star (Emma Roberts) and an overeager yoga enthusiast (Chris Messina). The film combines all aspects of life — the good and the happy as well as the sad and the difficult — in an attempt to illustrate just how varied life experiences can be.
The plot is unique and unexpected, but it flows with ease, moving smoothly from scene to scene without being trite or cliched. The primary focus is on Celeste, and through her we are exposed to love, friendship, the pursuit of happiness and the regrets and clear hindsight that naturally follow. The audience is drawn into the story by the organic dialogue and, as a result, can more easily empathize with characters as they face their trials.
Jones and McCormack’s script follows the emotional roller coaster Celeste faces with the end of her marriage, but it also provides the audience with a similar experience. Throughout the film, you don’t really know who or what you’re rooting for with all that is happening. Instead, all you want to do is watch and see what happens next, hoping everyone can be happy in the end.