Aug. 29, 2012 - Issue #880: LP
Celeste and Jesse Forever
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger
Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) are almost through the divorce process, but that doesn't stop them from hanging out on the daily, having cutesy, couple-y "love you" hand signs, calling each other best friend, and sharing an endless parade of injokes that surely started when they met in high school. He still lives in the studio behind their former love nest, a somewhat directionless artist while she's helming a successful pop culture marketing company. "It's not weird," they insist to friends who assure them that, yes, actually it is. Of course it is.
And so Celeste and Jesse Forever carries a general framework of a will they/won't they get back together romance, about two old flames learning how difficult it is to start over without abandoning each other entirely. But as this sturdy little film progresses, it reveals itself to be a smarter breed of rom com, a growth story of a different sort. After starting the film off equally, the focus on Samberg's Jesse declines as his path to new maturity and growth becomes effectively forced upon him—without spoiling, it feels a bit cheaply introduced, just thrown in to give us a hitch more than being properly developed. So this is ultimately more Celeste's story, a tale of someone who was still weighing her options when they were essentially snatched away from her. Jones (who also co-wrote the script) carries it all very well by herself, and she clicks onscreen with Samberg in a way that you can feel how these people are perpetually drawn to each other.
To its credit, Forever tries to stay away from formula, to remain as honest and real life as it can muster on a big screen. It's charming and not predictable, its heart and some of its humour well-managed by the on-screen chemistry of its leads and a strong assortment of supporting figures (Elijah Wood and Ari Graynor in particular).
Though a bit scattershot and meandering at times, it still sits above the bulk of its genre in terms of its grounding, in choosing to step away from the usual formula to navigate its own path through the harder parts of love, and in being brave enough to put its characters through uncomfortable paces on the way to being able to say, "I'm so happy for you" and mean it with all of the love and none of the longing.
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