Review: Celeste and Jesse Forever (Sundance 2012)
PLOT: Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) married young, and are the best of friends. While Celeste is a successful trends forecaster, Jesse wanders through life somewhat aimlessly. Fed up with his slacking, Celeste files for divorce, intending to stay best friends with Jesse, who she still loves. To her surprise, Jesse bounces back quickly from the separation, and gets on with his life, while she struggles to build a new identity without him.
REVIEW: CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER is likely going to be one of the more accessible, crowd-pleasing films to emerge from this year's Sundance. It's the kind of film that's all but guaranteed to walk away with a rich distribution deal from a smart studio, and will certainly be hitting a theatre near you before long. In some ways it reminds me a bit of last year's Sundance hit OUR IDIOT BROTHER (I mean that as a compliment- I liked that film), and while I have no idea how it'll play once removed from the fest, watching it at a packed early-morning screening at the Eccles was a treat.
It's a nice ninety-minute break from some of the more serious fare, although- while venturing near BRIDESMAIDS levels of hilarity at some points (minus the gross-out factor), it also manages to squeeze in a nice little relationship story about how the partner we take for granted, just might be the one thing that keeps us from going off the deep-end. Star Rashida Jones, who's currently starring in the sublime PARKS & RECREATION, also co-wrote the film, and while I've no idea if she brought any personal baggage to the film, it feels like a very knowing tale.
More than anything, CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER speaks to the fact that a partner shouldn't be too quick to try and “improve” their mate, as by doing so, that doesn't do anything but change the person they fell in love with. Jones' Celeste is the dominant half of the titular couple,- both in the on-screen relationship and in the focus of the film. She's an upwardly mobile businesswoman, who feels that's she's outgrown Jesse, but still loves him enough to want to keep him around as her-constant companion, good for fun and the occasional screw. It's a cruel thing on her part, and the film doesn't downplay this- with many of her on-screen friends (including Ari Graynor) pointing out that she's blowing a perfectly good relationship for nothing. While this might lead some to blow Celeste off as a real bitch, she's not in the least. She's actually very easy for anyone that's ever had a partner that seemed never seemed to grow up can identify with, and Jones' plays her very sympathetically (more so than Michelle Williams in the recent, similar TAKE THIS WALTZ)
Jones is certainly no stranger to comedy, and she makes an extremely appealing leading woman, with many already touting this as the film that could elevate her to new levels of stardom. It certainly does feel like the perfect star vehicle for Jones, who's so charming that, as an audience, we immediately forgive her for her cruel dismissal of Jesse. As for Samberg, his is the smaller role, but he still gets a lot of good material to chew on, as over the course of the film he evolves from the Samberg-style cut-up, into a more serious, introspective type, torn between his continued devotion to Celeste, and the new life that he's managed to build for himself. It's also worth mentioning that the chemistry between Jones and Samberg is pitch-perfect.
Director Lee Toland Krieger, whose work behind the camera here compares favorably with Paul Feig and Judd Apatow (to continue the BRIDESMAIDS comparison), has also assembled a hilariously random, but excellent supporting cast. We get Elijah Wood as Jones' admittedly stereotypical gay best friend, who plays his character in exactly the way Patton Oswalt suggested in his last stand-up special- being that he's just as clueless as the rest of us. In a huge surprise, Emma Roberts absolutely nails a small role as a tarty-teen pop star client of Jones', showing a surprising flair for comedy. I've been hard on Roberts in the past, but she really delivers here. However, the real scene-stealer is co-writer Will McCormack, as Celeste & Jesse's thoughtful pot-guy, Skillz, who finds himself torn between two of his best customers (his bit about the weed market being saturated, and his aspirations to become a pre-school teacher needs to go viral NOW).
All in all, I adored CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER, which is a bit of a bummer coming this early in the fest, in that I doubt any of the other comedies playing her can compare. It's terrific, and deserves to break-out big time once it hit theatres (please- no VOD for this puppy).