Celeste & Jesse Forever is a kind of indie anti-fairytale with marginally irritating characters but never so much to make you hate them. Celeste and Jesse have been friends forever, as the opening credits tell us through a series of photos of scene setting, and have ended up together in what could be a Hollywood prequel, god forbid. When we meet them they appear to be a perfectly normal dysfunctional couple. Jesse (Andy Samberg) is an illustrator being beaten down by the recession whilst Celeste (Rashida Jones) is a very successful trend forecaster working with a wonderfully gay Elijah Wood (the film’s best character by a long way). It’s only when they’re having dinner with some friends that we find out they’re in the middle of a divorce having been separated for six months, and so begins a pretty funny 90 minutes.
Rashida Jones does a nice job of playing the highly strung successful woman who lets her personal life invade her work life with some hilarious consequences. For her, the film is about the reflection of herself on the people around her. As it progresses, she shields herself further so she doesn’t have to face the person she is and the change she needs to make to progress in life. More and more she is seen with a wine glass or two, a few packets of cigarettes and occasionally a bong as she digs herself deeper into her rut. Jones pulls off the funny side of her character with good comic timing and well enough to allow you to forget the nauseating hipster side to her but it’s when she’s having her crisis that her talent really comes through. Often she looks tired and lacks the “Hollywood shine” making her character believable and a lot more accessible. Her scenes with Elijah Wood are some of the funniest with him playing a nerdy gay guy who keeps trying to act gayer but without much luck.
The surprising thing about this film is how little it follows the norm for this genre. Without giving it all away it doesn’t go exactly as expected. At first it’s frustrating but when you realise how much Celeste has grown as a person, it becomes a satisfying end and certainly the more realistic of the two obvious possibilities. Just when it gets predictable the story shifts keeping it interesting and making it much more compelling than the usual romantic comedies that Hollywood churns out. There’s some lovely camera work here too and the indie vibe adds to the interest with characters that have more to them than meets the eye (see: Emma Roberts). For a film that’s set so largely in the romantic comedy genre, this is a sweet little gem that does enough to stand out from the crowd. It’ll make decent entertainment for a wet Sunday afternoon, but if you’re looking for something with a bit more substance and intelligence you’ll need to go elsewhere.
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Writers: Rashida Jones (screenplay), Will McCormack (screenplay)
Stars: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood
Runtime: 92 min