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Rashida Jones Co-writes, Stars in Tale of Life After Love

By tt stern-enzi · August 29th, 2012 · Movies
ac_film_sonypicturesclassicsSony Pictures Classics
The credit sequence offers snapshots of the meet-cute, the courtship and the marriage of best friends, Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg), and towards the end, there’s a teasing hint of discord that starts to creep into the mix, but you doubt that it’s going to be bad, especially that bad because what would the movie be about, if they don’t live happily ever after, right?

But that’s when Celeste and Jesse Forever takes a turn, for better and for worse, as stated so plainly in the traditional vows. Because Celeste and Jesse, we soon find out, are separated, although they are downright amicable about it, frustratingly so, at least from the standpoint of their friends. They still spend an inordinate amount of time together, working together on projects, hanging out socially and then driving back to their separate but connected domiciles (Jesse is staying in the converted studio space behind the house he shared with Celeste).

Best friends forever is a clichéd phrase that gets bandied about between people closely linked for a time, through a particular patch of life, but few of these relationships truly last. Only a precious few bond on the deepest levels and fewer still cross the gender divide. Is it really ideal to marry your best friend or would physical intimacy get in the way?

A version of that question was at the heart of When Harry Met Sally, the classic romantic comedy of the late 20th century, which documented the sordid travails of a couple from their not-so-cute meet to their adult union of hearts and minds.

Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) ripped through fairy tale conventions in a refreshing — for its time — fashion. Sally may have wanted to meet the perfect guy, but the parameters she placed on her charming prince were rooted in the yuppie working partners’ expectations of what the family unit was supposed to look like, not the princess model.

Celeste and Jesse take that ripped page and run it through a shredder for a cleaner series of cuts, but of course, there are many more pieces once it has come out the other end. Celeste is a 21st century woman with a career and no problems earning more than her man. What bothers her about Jesse is that he happens to be a prototypical slacker artist who smokes weed, plays videogames and sneaks in a project or two between these less than productive endeavors. 

Jesse is funny and loyal, and quite possibly an intriguing artist, although we are never given a significant peek at his work. He’s just a cool dude who, bottom line, loves Celeste, and it is obvious, from the point where the story picks up, that he’s waiting for Celeste to come to her senses and take him back.

But she has dropped him like bad habit and moved on, until it turns out that Jesse stumbles into a fling with Veronica (Rebecca Dayan), which comes to resemble a shotgun blast of sorts. Irresponsibility leads to babies and settling down and reconsiderations on both sides. Was she wrong about him? Does he love the new woman and the life ahead of him?

Do they love each other and are they truly best friends forever? That’s what Jones’ script is working out and what we see in the interactions between Celeste and Jesse as they go from cute banter to living life without one another on a constant daily basis. Celeste, who we see much more of, loses her bearings, in life and as a character. She’s not funny without Jesse and her life is not complete, even though there are lots of plot points and secondary characters wandering in and out of the proceedings. There’s a new guy from yoga (Chris Messina), an old friend (Will McCormack) she shares with Jesse who provides weed and some comic relief, and a work situation with a pampered pop princess (Emma Roberts) who becomes a young surrogate.

Is that what Celeste needs? I wonder if this is what we need — to watch the two of them muddle through this break-up. We’re not their friends, and some in the audience will say they wouldn’t want to be, but if we’re as honest about ourselves as Jones and co-screenwriter McCormack attempt to be, we might realize that Celeste and Jesse are uncomfortable reflections of the emotional waffling. Nothing lasts forever, but Celeste and Jesse Forever reminds us that sometimes the best and the worst moments feel mighty long. (R)
Grade: B-



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