Celeste & Jesse Forever (MA15+) – 3.5 stars
Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Emma Roberts, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood
DIRECTOR LEE TOLAND KRIEGER
REVIEW SHANNON HARVEY
You’ll like this if you liked (500) Days of Summer, Crazy Stupid Love, No Strings Attached, Friends with Benefits, When Harry Met Sally
Can lovers be best friends after they break up? That’s the question at the heart of this fresh, low-key indie rom-com from star and co-writer Rashida Jones (TV’s Parks and Recreation).
It’s the kind that follows a long line of rom-coms which ask big, tough, water-cooler questions such as:
Can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way (When Harry Met Sally)?
Can you love two people at once (Broadcast News)?
Should you lend your apartment to your boss and his mistress (The Apartment)?
And can you have sex without friendship or even love getting in the way (Friends with Benefits, No Strings Attached)?
If nothing else, these rom-coms try to say something about life, love and the human condition. They don’t just put a series of silly obstacles in two lovers’ way before they finally hook up.
High school sweethearts Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) are now in their 30s and more inseparable than ever. They live next door to each other, play childish little games and do funny voices together. They make a very cute couple.
Trouble is, Celeste and Jesse have been separated for two years after being married for six. That revelation comes early in the film, and their cosy relationship drives their friends wild. How can they remain so close after being so, well, close? Why didn’t they just stay together?
It’s a good point and one the script — by Jones and her brief one-time boyfriend Will McCormack — pushes aside with the old “we’ve grown apart” chestnut.
Celeste is now a driven, successful career woman. Jesse is a struggling artist without much direction. Jesse sheepishly agrees with Celeste’s suggestion to start dating other people.
While that puts their true feelings to the test — in unpredictable ways — it also brings more characters into this funny, elegant and surprisingly sophisticated rom-com.
Elijah Wood plays Celeste’s gay boss and confidant. Chris Messina (Ruby Sparks, Julie & Julia) plays her suave potential suitor. And Emma Roberts (Julia’s niece) stands out as a bratty rising pop star who may be smarter than Celeste gives her credit for.
Even when Jesse drops a bombshell that plays as a plot device to drive the narrative forward, Celeste & Jesse Forever never goes into predictable rom-com territory.
Feelings are hurt and emotions seesaw as the two work out who they are, where they are going and who they want to be.
It’s more like a coming-of-age story in that sense, than a rom-com. There’s a truth to it that’s refreshing, unforced and not unlike (500) Days of Summer from the girl’s point of view.
And that girl is the radiant Rashida Jones.
The Harvard graduate and daughter of Quincy Jones finally gets her first big-screen lead role after The Social Network and I Love You, Man. And she nails it with an earthy, bittersweet and heartfelt performance.
The multi-talented 36-year-old was inspired to write it after she and McCormack (who has a small role) remained soulmates after their brief encounter. That sense of reality shines through amid a sea of silly rom-coms.
If you’ve ever loved, lost or loved again, you will relate to this wry, witty and hip modern love story.
Celeste & Jesse Forever opens today.