Is it possible to remain friends and move on romantically after the break-up of a marriage? Or is complete separation the only way to move on? Review of Celeste & Jesse Forever after the jump.
We are first introduced to Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) through a montage depicting a series of events which show the development of their relationship. The two were friends that become lovers, and went on to marry – the last images we see in the montage are of an annoyed Celeste walking away from Jesse at a party. We soon learn that the pair have separated after 6 years of marriage but have not yet worked out how to live their own lives. It doesn’t appear that there was a particular event that has ended the marriage, they have simply grown apart and it’s not working any longer.
While the marriage may be over, Jesse is still living on their property (in a studio out the back of the house) and the pair still spend time together like nothing has happened. Is their inability to let go a sign that the pair has made a mistake? After friends call them out over the oddness of their situation, they decide to start dating other people in an attempt to see what life is like without the other one in it. The film explores both the changes in Celeste & Jesse’s relationship , and their individual experiences at trying to forge their own paths.
Celeste & Jesse Forever is a smart look at modern relationships and it really struck a chord with me. This was a couple who were best of friends and lovers, but seemed to have grown apart over time. They didn’t despise or hate each other, and didn’t want to cut each other out of their respective lives. Their situation is something I’ve seen happen before, and is extremely relatable. Not every relationship ends due to some dramatic event(s), and not everyone wants or can go “cold turkey” and have a clean break. The film explores in a very real way how tricky it can be to untangle oneself from someone who has become so integral to your life.
The screenplay is very smart, and stars Rashida Jones and Will McCormack (who penned the screenplay) have done a first-rate job at both creating believable characters and producing very natural dialogue. The pair worked very closely on the film, writing side-by-side (literally – they sat next to each other at adjacent computers) and drawing from their own personal experiences. Jones has clearly played to her own strengths in creating a flawed self-deprecating character who has a real razor-sharp wit. I laughed a lot throughout the film, but felt quite sad afterwards. I think I saw aspects in myself in Celeste’s character which I didn’t really like.
Jones and Samberg both deliver fantastic performances (Samberg redeeming himself after the horrific That’s My Boy); and I found it very refreshing to like both characters and not feel like the film was trying to manipulate the audience into picking a side, as is usually the case in a “break up” film. The supporting cast is also strong, with Elijah Wood providing many laughs as Celeste’s business partner.
As well as being smartly written, the film is also very well made. It’s clearly a low-budget feature, with a grainy quality to the visuals that I quite liked. There is very effective use of lighting, and the camera also gets very up-close and personal with the characters. This is a personal film and the camerawork reflects this.
Celeste & Jesse Forever is out in limited release, so take the chance to see it while you can. It’s refreshingly honest and smart, and inspired some serious self-reflection.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Writer(s): Rashida Jones &, Will McCormack
Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Will McCormack, Elijah Wood
Runtime: 92 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: November 29 2012; New Zealand: January 24 2013; USA: August 3 2012 (limited)