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Celeste and Jesse Forever

2012 | 92 min | R | 2.39:1

Celeste and Jesse Forever


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Theatrical release date

 03 August, 2012
 07 December, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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Celeste and Jesse Forever


Screenshots from Celeste and Jesse Forever Blu-ray

Celeste and Jesse Forever Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 17, 2012

“Celeste & Jesse Forever” is an independent production about a marriage in crisis. It’s not the most original concept, but the script attempts to disrupt the norm by greeting the heartache after the domestic divide. It’s the post-marriage movie about marriage, endeavoring to find a sincere take on separation while it stumbles through hoary scenarios and jokes. Although it means well enough, “Celeste & Jesse Forever” is cold to the touch, too exaggerated and fussy to register as meaningful, while laboring through two shallow performances by Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg, who come across as more of a dysfunctional improvisation duo than a plausibly aching couple.

Six months after their legal separation, high-strung Celeste (Rashida Jones) and slacker artist Jesse (Andy Samberg) are having trouble breaking up, too co-dependent to successfully untangle their lives, confusing their friends (including Ari Graynor and Eric Christian Olsen). Trying to break away by accepting outside dates, Jesse instead finds himself facing fatherhood for the first time, leaving Celeste to stew in her turbulent emotions, fearing she’s been left behind. Trying to realign her life, Celeste limps into the dating scene, coming close to a stable relationship with kindred spirit Paul (Chris Messina), yet can’t quite purge Jesse out of her system, a difficult practice when her ex-husband remains in her peripherals, cozying up when he needs a boost of sympathy. Hit with a professional meltdown and a radical shot of self-awareness, Celeste is confronted with a future without her best friend, forced to relearn basic social functions to rise again as a single woman.

Co-scripted by Jones and Will McCormack (who plays an unnerving, weed-happy friend caught in the middle of the break-up), “Celeste and Jesse Forever” has all the markings of a story that was created strictly to secure jobs for hungry actors, with a demo reel atmosphere. The writing is a lumpy mess of tonal shifts, sketchy neuroses, and sitcom characterizations, using the minefield of romantic discomfort as a way to swiftly sweep up sympathies in an otherwise plastic production. It’s not a Cassavetes production, it’s a weak episode of “Friends.” Despite a complex situation of separation facing the titular couple, the screenplay insists on creaky formula to engage the viewer, following Celeste as she undertakes a series of wacky bad dates (one man openly masturbates after dinner), depends on her gay bestie (Elijah Wood), and, at one point, is busted digging through Jesse’s trash as he pulls into his driveway with his new love. Cue the “Three’s Company” theme on that dismal moment of slapstick.

To believe in “Celeste & Jesse” requires the viewer to fall in love with Celeste and Jesse. Outside of a title sequence where a brief visual history of the relationship is recounted, the rest of the script is devoted to the aftermath of the separation, leaving few clues as to what made the two click in the first place. Outside of a shared sense of humor and time spent together, the personal dynamic is not identified, with Samberg and Jones carrying more of a sibling chemistry than a sexual one. Also disconcerting is how the story pushes away Jesse’s concerns once his impending fatherhood is established, making the feature more about Celeste’s psychological and social trials once dumped for good, killing off a dueling perspective on the central crisis. Jesse becomes a supporting player despite having the more intriguing subplot, handing the effort to Jones and her absurdly fidgety performance, matched to a clearly outgunned Samberg, who struggles to come off conflicted. There’s not a sincere moment in “Celeste & Jesse Forever,” with both actors working overtime to project emotions that should remain internalized.

Also contributing to the film’s focus problem is a subplot with Celeste as she bungles the marketing of a bratty-but-worldly teen pop star (Emma Roberts, channeling Kesha). The aside is here to permit Celeste a layer of triumph for the climax of the feature, but otherwise serves no purpose outside of fueling flaccid age difference jokes and reinforcing the picture’s sticky sense of L.A. life and style. “Celeste and Jesse” didn’t need the distraction.

Director Lee Toland Krieger previously flirted with a disingenuous touch in his 2009 effort, “The Vicious Kind.” “Celeste and Jesse” also proves to be quite a challenge for the filmmaker, fighting to find a warm core of realism and rehabilitation that makes the script’s artificiality pliable. I had trouble buying anything this movie was selling, feeling manipulated and underwhelmed with a promisingly acidic premise.

Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Emma Roberts, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Eric Christian Olsen
Director: Lee Toland Krieger

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