×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Celeste & Jesse Forever

Glibly amusing and fitfully perceptive comedy follows a wife and husband determined to stay best friends following their weirdly amicable split.

With:
Celeste - Rashida Jones
Jesse - Andy Samberg
Paul - Chris Messina
Beth - Ari Graynor
Tucker - Eric Christian Olsen
Skillz - Will McCormack
Veronica - Rebecca Dayan
Max - Rich Sommer
Nick - Matthew Del Negro
Rupert - Rafi Gavron
Scott - Elijah Wood

Breaking up is hard to do, and so is pulling off a high-concept romantic comedy that’s also meant to be a study of type-A personality issues. Glibly amusing and fitfully perceptive as it follows a wife and husband determined to stay best friends following their weirdly amicable split, “Celeste & Jesse Forever” earns points for bucking formula, but its fusion of snark and sincerity has a calculated slickness that rings increasingly hollow. Nevertheless, this pop-savvy pic, the biggest cinematic showcase yet for actress and debuting scribe Rashida Jones, boasts enough laughs to win over a segment of the general public.

Whether performing lewd sight gags or reading restaurant menus with exaggerated accents, Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) make such an insufferably cutesy couple that it takes several minutes for the audience to realize they’ve technically been separated for months. A professional trendspotter for a high-end Los Angeles marketing firm and a recently published author, Celeste is fed up enough with aspiring artist Jesse’s perpetual unemployment to end their six-year marriage, though both parties secretly hope and expect they’ll wind up back together soon enough.

That all changes when Jesse learns he’s about to become a dad, as a result of a one-night stand some months earlier with beautiful stranger Veronica (Rebecca Dayan). Though Celeste is outwardly supportive of his decision to settle down with the mother of his child, the news sends her into an emotional tailspin that she seeks to recover from by dating other men, such as guitar-strumming model Rupert (Rafi Gavron) and, more promisingly, her hunky yoga classmate Paul (Chris Messina). Yet no rebound relationship can keep this high-strung overachiever from continually alienating those closest to her as she wrestles with her conflicted feelings about herself and her soon-to-be-ex-husband.

Jones and Will McCormack’s witty script is undeniably distinctive in the way it sets up an unusual divorce-centric premise, then uses a soapy complication as a springboard into more character-driven territory. At the same time, there’s an overly self-satisfied quality to the pic’s attempts to mock romantic-comedy conventions, exemplified perhaps by Elijah Wood’s turn as Celeste’s self-aware, advice-spouting gay friend. Even the lead casting of hip TV funnyfolk Jones (“Parks and Recreation”) and Samberg (“Saturday Night Live”), however enjoyably offbeat, feels like a deliberately ironic gesture that somewhat hinders audience investment in the couple’s journey.

That title, too, turns out to be misleading: For better and for worse, this is Celeste’s movie, and Jones’ typically sharp performance delights in revealing the character’s worst traits, specifically her need to be right all the time and what one character rightly calls out as her “contempt prior to investigation.” Yet by focusing so heavily on the comedy of female self-improvement, arguably letting Jesse off the hook, the pic inadvertently suggests that a lazy, unmotivated man is preferable to a smart, opinionated woman. That Celeste just needs to lighten up is repeatedly pounded home in the string of redemptive, reconciliatory encounters that make up the pic’s final passages.

Briskly directed by Lee Toland Krieger (making a confident follow-up to 2009’s “The Vicious Kind”), “Celeste & Jesse Forever” keeps up a steady stream of sharp jokes and observations, most of them directed at the chic L.A./Hollywood bubble the characters inhabit. Particularly noteworthy in the strong supporting cast are McCormack as Jesse’s aggressively solicitous friend and Emma Roberts as Celeste’s odious rock-star client.

Pic benefits from evocative lensing in and around the city, stretching from Silverlake neighborhoods to such classic downtown locales as the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Musical choices are ingratiating and effective, particularly in a lovely, romantic sequence of tightly edited still images that opens the picture.

Celeste & Jesse Forever

Production: An Envision Media Arts presentation of a Team Todd, Envision Media Arts production. (International sales: UTA, Los Angeles.) Produced by Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd, Lee Nelson. Executive producers, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack. Co-producer, David Grace. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger. Screenplay, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), David Lanzenberg; editor, Yana Gorskaya; music, Sunny Levine, Zach Cowie; production designer, Ian Phillips; art director, Keri Ambrosino; costume designer, Julia Caston; sound, Mary Jo Devenney, Matthew Nicolay; supervising sound editor, David Barber; re-recording mixers, Barber, Michael Kreple; stunt coordinator, Andrew Dylan; line producer, David Grace; associate producers, Shahrzad "Sheri" Davani, Stephanie Johnson, Noah Stahl; assistant director, Davani; casting, Angelo Demo, Barbara McCarthy. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Premieres), Jan. 20, 2012. Running time: 90 MIN.

Cast: Celeste - Rashida Jones
Jesse - Andy Samberg
Paul - Chris Messina
Beth - Ari Graynor
Tucker - Eric Christian Olsen
Skillz - Will McCormack
Veronica - Rebecca Dayan
Max - Rich Sommer
Nick - Matthew Del Negro
Rupert - Rafi Gavron
Scott - Elijah Wood

More Scene

  • Adam Driver appears at the curtain

    Adam Driver on Starring in 'Burn This' for a Second Time

    The Hudson Theatre’s new production of “Burn This” marks its first Broadway revival since it premiered on the Great White Way in 1987, but Adam Driver is no stranger to the work. He starred as Pale in a Juilliard production of the Lanford Wilson drama when he was still a student — and only now, [...]

  • PMC Event Rome

    Film, Fashion, Formula E Mix at Rome E-Prix Bash

    Film, fashion and Formula E auto-racing fused during a dinner and celebration of the Rome E-Prix on Thursday at the Palazzo Dama by the Piazza del Popolo in the heart of the Eternal City.  Guests mingled and sipped cocktails as hors d’oeuvres were passed around in a former home of the Italian nobility with conversation [...]

  • Katy Perry, Diane von Furstenberg, Arianna

    Katy Perry and Anita Hill Honored at the DVF Awards

    Katy Perry was among the honorees at the 10th Annual DVF Awards on Thursday night. The singer was recognized for her advocacy work with both UNICEF and the LGBTQ community. “Music has opened the doors for so many opportunities for me,” she said while accepting the inspiration award. “The ability to meet people and champion [...]

  • Chrissy Metz'Breakthrough' Film Premiere, Arrivals, Regency

    Why 'This Is Us' Star Chrissy Metz Could End Up Performing at the Next Oscars

    Chrissy Metz made her live-singing debut on Sunday when she performed “I’m Standing With You” from her new movie “Breakthrough.” Was that just a step on her way to performing at the Oscars? Could be. The song was written by 10-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren. “They said Chrissy had to sing it and I was [...]

  • Bob IgerSimon Weisenthal Gala honoring Bob

    Disney's Bob Iger Blasts Hateful Political Discourse and Social Media: 'We Can Do Better'

    Bob Iger didn’t mince words while being honored Thursday by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Upon receiving the Humanitarian Award at the organization’s National Tribute Dinner from Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO delivered a scathing critique of social media and the current state of political discourse. “Hate and anger are dragging us [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content