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'CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER': Four Stars (Out of Five)
Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg play a divorcing couple who remain best friends and inseparable until one meets someone new. The film is equal parts comedy and drama and actually allows both Jones and Samberg to show off their acting chops and do something a little more serious for a change. It was written by Jones as well, along with fellow actor Will McCormack (who also co-stars in the film). Lee Toland Krieger directed the film but Jones and McCormack were nominated for Best First Screenplay at the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards. The film has received great reviews as well and I think deservingly so. It's a funny and insightful film and both Jones and Samberg shine in it.
Jones plays Celeste, a trend analyzer who runs a media business with her friend Scott (Elijah Wood). Samberg plays Jesse, an unemployed artist still struggling to find work. The two were high school sweethearts who married young and have now been separated for several months (while they finalize their divorce). Their friends Beth (Ari Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen), who are engaged, think it's odd that they spend so much time together and act like they're still a couple. Jesse's friend Skillz (McCormack) encourages him to start dating. Jesse is reluctant to follow his advice because he believes Celeste will come around and they'll get back together. Celeste ended things with Jesse though because she thinks he's taken so long to find work and make something of himself. When Jesse tells Celeste he's having a baby with his beautiful new girlfriend Veronica (Rebecca Dayan) it throws her for a loop and causes her to reevaluate her life and her feelings for Jesse.
The film is told more through Celeste's point of view and it's nice to see a romantic comedy that seems true to life and revolves around the woman having a mental breakdown rather than the guy. Jones is fantastic in the role and her and McCormack's script is smart and insightful. Samberg is great as well and it's nice to see him trying his hand at drama (and doing so successfully). He and Jones still have plenty of truly comedic moments as well (as does the rest of the cast) and they also have beautiful chemistry. Krieger's directing adds the perfect feel and beautiful look to the movie as well. This is an all around well done romantic dramedy and an impressive career step for both Jones and Samberg!
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Loved this film...I had the pleasure of seeing it at the LA Film Festival...What a pleasure to walk out when it ended with a happy feeling in my chest and in a great mood for the evening...The cast is excellent..the story line different...laughed out loud! Andy S is at his best..I loved the way he delivered his lines, a laugh throughout the film Rashida J. is funny and makes you fall in love with her. The entire cast does an incredible job. The casting of the entire film was wonderful, perfect in every way. The director did a fabulous job. I just can't say enough about Celeste and Jesse...a 10...do not miss seeing it this summer
Lots of comedies in the last year or so have focused on whether two
people can be involved sexually without being involved romantically.
"Celeste and Jesse Forever" asks if two people who were involved
sexually can be involved platonically. Both beat the dead horse of
"complicated" relationships in film, but what's nice about "Celeste and
Jesse" is that it never loses its comic edge in spite of melodrama.
Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg star as the titular couple in the process of a divorce, but because they spent so long as best friends, they have no concept of needing to draw boundaries.
It's a tough sell early on, that two people could go through a divorce yet essentially live together and spend time together in a somewhat intimate fashion. Jones, who co-wrote the script with Will McCormack (who has a supporting role), chooses to make Celeste and Jesse opposites in terms of professional status (he's a slacker artist, she's a big-deal trend forecaster) in order to justify why, despite their fabulous on-screen chemistry, they're not meant to stay married. It takes a bit of story wizardry, namely physical obstacles that force them apart, but somehow it makes sense, probably because Jones and Samberg are so likable.
The story then plays out like the emotional roller coaster of a relationship between two people who feel one thing but do another. It's exhausting, at times, as a third-party observer, to watch them fall in and out of the same predictable problems. A few scenes will certainly elicit shouts at the screen of "just get back together already!" or "stop screwing around and end it!" depending on the scene.
Naturally, each character has his and her attempts to rebound by going on dates with other people and trying new relationships. To this point we've seen enough of the formula to know how that part of the story goes: two former lovers get mad at each other, the one who didn't really want to split rebounds first, the other says they're really happy for that person but secretly can't stand it, etc. That's all here in "Celeste and Jesse Forever."
So what's the saving grace? Something that makes "Celeste and Jesse" stand out from the pack? The answer is the simple refusal to ever take itself too seriously. Without it, the film would likely devolve into a train wreck of predictable moments.
In spite of the absurd tear count in the movie, Celeste is never shy about cracking a joke, nor the script afraid go out on a limb with something more extreme and less believable. This, in a movie that so fiercely tries to capture the gray area in relationships in a truthful way. Humor keeps the film in check, especially for us, who would otherwise happily chop up the script and divide the pieces into piles marked "realistic" and "unrealistic." The quirkier tone and moments maintain the soft illusion of a more fantastical real-life relationship story.
Director Lee Toland Krieger nicely flows back and forth between both up-close-and-personal realism and more standard-order comedy camera-work. On a few occasions he makes bold choices, some that work, some that backfire, but the comic and dramatic moments almost never butt heads.
Life in Los Angeles is, for many, a fantasy of a sort, and "Celeste and Jesse" could easily be deemed a story that could "only happen in L.A." In addition to the frozen yogurt and the exposure of the fraud that is trendy exercise, Celeste works in the entertainment industry and post-Jesse she's set up on all these dates with successful creative people. Scenes take place in all kinds of exotic clubs, so much of the context surrounding these characters oozes with a superficiality that makes the film both great and disturbing.
A little more troubling is the legit problem that Jesse disappears in large chunks of this film. There's a reason Celeste comes first in the billing, and that's because the movie only shows intimate moments featuring her (and the ones she shares with Jesse). Samberg doesn't get much of a chance to prove himself as a talent that can go below the surface. The script treats Jesse like a child, kind of like the way Celeste sees him. There's artist value to this decision, but the moments between the two of them are too lopsided in our minds. Great romance movies get you charged up because you feel a certain way about both characters, and in this film we only really feel what Celeste feels.
There's something special in "Celeste and Jesse," however, some rare ability to see the humor in the personally tragic, the potential for levity and irony in any situation. The emotional place that these two best friends arrive at in the end might not be as satisfying as that in a strong romance or rom-com, nor as poetic as in a tragedy, but with its playful disposition, it manages to carve out a place that's different, one that stands out from the pack just enough.
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This film is pure candy. Rashida Jones wrote a story about a couple who
love each other enough to call it quits while they're still in love.
Both characters have flaws, but Samberg's character is to blame for the
divorce because he's a child who is content to let his upwardly mobile
wife carry the couple's financial responsibilities. As a result, Jone's
character loses respect for him, and finds it hard to relate to him as
a wife, but feels more like a mother. This is a common problem in
relationships these days, and this script jumps right into the middle
of the subject. The chemistry between Jones and Samberg is very
believable, and they have the same quirk factor, so it's heartbreaking
to watch their lives move in different directions when Samberg's
beautiful one-night-stand-baby-mama shows up. The guy just can't do
anything right. Then, he decides to do something right, and suddenly
Jones' starts back walking and taking inventory of what's out there
versus what she already had. Elijah Wood was a nice touch as Rashida's
gay business partner. Ari Gaynor played a peach of a best friend. In
fact, all the supporting actors were perfect in this romantic drama
comedy that required rapid fire quips, flippancy, and gut wrenching
truths, culminating in a tearful confrontation between the two main
characters that brought me to tears with its heartbreaking
Seems like Miss Jones is more than a pretty face, and Andy Samberg has range. If I had a criticism it would be that the film seemed primarily about Rashida's character, which made her character seem controlling and self absorbed. This made it a little harder to empathize with her character, however, she redeemed herself in the scene where she fell into and out of Samberg's trash can snooping, and got caught doing it. Hilarious. Chris Messina added a nice possibility.
A very enjoyable and entertaining film.
Celeste and Jesse Forever is a more honest look at breakups and divorce
than most romantic dramedies of the last couple of years. The film had
a lot of thoughtfulness to it, was delicately filmed and full of wit
and raw emotion. The downside though is that it has an overly familiar
formula that has been done to death now with films like The Break-Up,
Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Take This Waltz, Friends with Kids,
etcetera. The film just gets lost in that ever-growing genre, even
though it's quite the gem and probably the most relevant version of
that specific formula I've seen lately.
The performances were genuine and charming, with an undeniable likable cast. Rashida Jones is becoming one of my favorite actresses of today, and I think Celeste and Jesse Forever is her true breakthrough performance. Rashida plays Celeste who is in the process of finalizing her divorce from her husband Jesse, who still lives with her and are oddly close friends still. Jesse, played with corky poise by Andy Samberg, soon starts dating to move on which thrills Celeste until his past fling pops up in his life again and reveals that she is pregnant. Celeste finds it harder than ever to move on and all she is feeling is regret.
I think the film's process of his or her struggle of moving on was naturally dealt with, as there is no Hollywood ending or overuse of sentimentality. The film in the end doesn't sugarcoat anything, which was a breath of fresh air in that aspect. The supporting cast was not half bad either and it's always great to watch Ari Graynor who plays Celeste's best friend Beth. Ari Graynor to me is a talented actress and it's about time she deserves a leading role and put an end to playing sidekicks.
Director, Lee Toland Krieger seems to be a personable director and connects with the audience in a timely matter. There were a couple of quiet, simple moments of poignancy and then balanced it with humor effortlessly. The use of songs fits this film like a glove and went with the flow. Writers and stars of the film Will McCormack and Rashida Jones should definitely collaborate again because the writing was just filled with honest humor and thoughtfulness, which created great energy for the film.
Overall, it's not a groundbreaking romantic comedy, but Rashida Jones is such a mesmerizing, witty and intelligent actress in this film that you will fall in love with it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Celeste (Rashida Jones) is the owner of a media market firm in Los
Angeles, but given the recent publication of her nonfiction book about
the direction American pop culture has headed, she prefers to think of
herself as a trend forecaster. Jesse (Andy Samberg) has artistic talent
but is currently unemployed and seems rather indifferent about finding
a new job. High school sweethearts who tied the knot, they have been
separated for six months and are in the final stages of divorcing. That
hasn't stopped them from remaining the best of friends; they still go
to restaurants, sing in harmony with the radio, mime hugs for each
other by crossing their arms and cupping their hands, and perpetuate a
game where they pretend that a tube of petroleum jelly is a tiny penis.
Although Jesse has moved out of the main house, he lives in his studio
located on the same property, which Celeste doesn't seem to mind. They
even say that they love each other.
Much like the recently released "Lola Versus," "Celeste and Jesse Forever" takes a fairly standard romantic comedy concept and fine tunes it for more indie-minded audiences. This is not to suggest that the plotting or characterizations are any less manufactured; it simply means that the film is overall quirkier, subtler, and not as easily attracted to the idea of a fairytale ending. I liked the title characters, although for most of the film, I struggled to empathize with them, in large part because they persisted in being so caviler about their feelings for each other. Although Celeste is a right fighter and control freak, and although Jesse has the emotional maturity of a five-year-old, they're both in denial about the reality of the separation and lack the courage to admit that they really do belong together.
Fortunately, the final scenes helped to reshape some of my perceptions. Essentially, the film is a cautionary tale of not taking relationships for granted. For Celeste, it's a journey towards relinquishing control and accepting the mistakes she has made. For Jesse, it's about realizing that he has made his bed and now has to lay in it. Both changes come about as the result of a plot twist that actually hasn't been given away in the ad campaign. The publicity department at Sony Pictures Classics deserves a lot of credit here; we live in an age when trailers and TV spots will either hint too strongly at a crucial plot point or altogether spoil it, a reality audiences don't seem to care about anymore. I'm going to follow Sony's lead and keep my mouth shut. Should you decide to go see this film, you deserve to actually be surprised.
What I can say is that the other people in Celeste and Jesse's life seem genuinely bothered by their current arrangement. Jesse's potheaded best friend, for example, is too focused on the opposite sex and too under the influence to say anything of value, which should tell you a thing or two about how he copes with life in general. Celeste's best friend, Beth (Ari Graynor), seems downright devastated by everything, perhaps because she's currently engaged and fears her marriage may someday end up like Celeste and Jesse's. Celeste is fairly close with her gay co-worker, Scott (Elijah Wood), and repeatedly runs the developing situation by him for his two cents. He's probably the most levelheaded character in the entire film, although he isn't saying what the audience is already thinking.
Celeste will make a surprising emotional connection with a spoiled teen pop star named Riley Banks (Emma Roberts), who goes to Celeste's company in order have her newest album marketed for today's audiences. To reveal the hilarious mistake made in the logo design would be doing you a great disservice; here is a visual gag that comes out of nowhere and, in the best possible sense, throws the audience for a loop. Suffice it to say, the personality clash is palpable, and the two initially want nothing to do with each other. This is not a simple case of Celeste eventually discovering the "real" Riley Banks; it's more a matter of Celeste coming to terms with who Riley is and realizing that even a young woman packaged and sold within an inch of her life can have her heart broken.
Another important subplot involves a man named Paul (Chris Messina), who intentionally signs himself up for yoga classes to meet women. He uses that method to enter Celeste's life, and although she initially resists him, romcom logic dictates that the two will eventually start dating. What's not made explicitly clear is whether or not they will end up together; he's a decent enough guy, although the situation with Jesse, who's always so passive about everything, will repeatedly complicate matters. I've given passing grades to numerous romantic comedies, but it's always refreshing when filmmakers go for something unconventional. "Celeste and Jesse Forever" not only stars Rashida Jones but was also co-written by her, which proves surprisingly beneficial to the story. Who better to capture the essence of a character than the woman who contributed to her very creation?
-- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the best films I have seen in a long while! It is a
surprising masterpiece that captures the subtle intricacies of a modern
relationship, divorce, friendship...I have never seen a film that
delves into this type of a relationship in such an honest, poignant way
while being completely unique. It is completely charming, hilarious and
has a perfect marriage of humor and heart. I was lucky enough to see it
at the LA film festival and it was my absolute favorite film there.
Rashida and Andy Samberg are incredible together. They have perfect
chemistry. Emma Roberts and Chris Messina also standout. The writing is
I don't want to give any spoilers, but I must say that this is the most refreshing, unique, moving and hilarious film I have seen in years. It reminds me of how I felt when watching Annie Hall. It's the kind if film you will watch over and over. I can't wait to see it again. I absolutely LOVED the movie!!!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rashida Jones & Andy Samberg are Celeste & Jesse. They are best friends
who are getting divorced, except they want to stay friend.
Ari Graynor & Eric Christian Olsen are their best friends Beth & Tucker who are getting married. They can't understand Celeste & Jesse's relationship. "It's weird." For most of this movie, everybody is annoying. Celeste is a know-it-all. Jesse is a slacker loser. The people they meet are all douche-bags and drug dealers, both friends & strangers. It is a whole hour of HELL watching this movie full of annoying self obsessed people.
Emma Roberts is a pop princess Riley client of Celeste. At the beginning, she is yet another annoying character in the movie. However her character turns it around. She calls Celeste on her arrogance, "Contempt prior to investigation". This breaks Celeste down to her core, and she spirals down. Until Riley comes to her rescue again, this time commiserating over failed relationships.
Riley is truly the big emotional catalyst. Only she needed to save this movie earlier. The "Contempt..." line comes 1 hour into the movie. Before that, it was stuck in emotional neutral. That's way too long.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Oh, finally! A smart romantic comedy with great chemistry between it's charming protagonists. Rashida Jones is, not just beautiful, but unique. And what about Andy Samberg? Wonderful. With his enormous features, big nose, big mouth, lots of teeth in no particular order, he manages to be delicate and tender. I believed him, totally. Okay, well, that's the solid base in which you can build anything. To connect with the characters on the screen is a principal ingredient for a fulfilling tale of any kind. I left the theater feeling upbeat and optimistic. I worry a little for Rashida left to try her luck with Chris Messina. He's far too convincing in "The Newsroom". Joking aside, go see it.
This film did nothing for me, and the 90 minutes I spent with it felt
like twice that time.
Part of the problem for me, possibly, was I just watched Liberal Arts and Your Sister's Sister, which were much better written, had more wit, and had less dull traditional views and a few minor insights to impart.
Part of the problem is I just don't get the appeal of Jesse. He's not good-looking. He's a loser. He has no paycheck. He's acting like he's 18 but he's in his 30's. He's not particularly bright. Unless this guy has amazing hidden sexual talents (though these were never hinted at, and there were opportunities to do so), I just don't get the appeal. That more than one woman (all lovely to look at) seems interested in him shocks me. Zero women should be interested in him. I'm used to such inexplicably attractive loser male characters being written by male writers, but it's a shock to see women writing this too.
Initially Celeste seems the better bet, but she ends up being irritating too, and what the heck is her job supposed to be? Is that a real job? Maybe the writers need to hang out somewhere other than Hollywood to get a sense of how real people earn their money.
It's a movie about two people I'd never date, never be friends with, would cross the street to avoid (the masturbation of tiny phallic object isn't even sophomoric. It's junior high humor and they do it REPEATEDLY. Save me.) The only character who has any appeal is the pop star character. I liked how she was written to have hidden depths. The only scene I found at all funny was the bad first date with the photographer. And the soundtrack irritated me.
And in the end, this movie said nothing new about relationships. Yeah, we get stuck with wrong people and it's hard to leave a marriage, but this shouldn't be news to anyone over the age of 18.
Unlikeable characters doing very little, slowly, to irksome music. Not a good way to spend your precious, finite time.
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