To its credit, Lee Toland Krieger's Celeste and Jesse Forever attempts to look at the genre from a new angle, from the point of view of a couple that has just broken up and are embarking on a new era of friendship. Unfortunately it gets caught up in some of the same tired tropes that have plagued the genre for years.
Celeste (Rashida Jones, who also co-wrote the screenplay) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) have just had the perfect breakup. By civilly acknowledging their differences and lack of romantic compatibility, they have managed to remain best friends, still spending nearly all their time together (Jesse lives in a loft in Celeste's back yard) and going out on "dates" with their friends.
|Left to Right: Andy Samberg as Jesse and Rashida Jones as Celeste|
Photo by David Lanzenberg, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Things change when Jesse starts dating another woman, a beautiful old flame named Veronica (Rebecca Dayan), raising up a swell of unexpected feelings in Celeste - jealousy, regret, sadness. When it is revealed that Jesse is going to be the father of Veronica's child, their relationship takes on a new timbre. The two of them clearly still have feelings for each other, but are once again on different paths, and each may finally be moving on for good.
| Left to Right: Rashida Jones as Celeste and Andy Samberg as Jesse|
Photo by Lee Toland Krieger, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
It's a shame, too, because there is a lot of potential in its premise, and there are some nice moments provided by the leads. Krieger takes us in unexpected directions, which is especially rare in a film like this, imbuing the film with a kind of wistful melancholy that is hard to shake. But the awkward structure and stilted attempts at faux-quirk leave a bad taste. Rather than just allowing the humor to flow naturally from the characters and situations, it instead chooses to push the wrong buttons in a misguided attempt to be funny. Like Elijah Wood's awkward sassy gay boss who doesn't know how to be sassy, Celeste and Jesse Forever doesn't seem to know how to be the film it so desperately wants to be.
GRADE - ★★ (out of four)
CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER | Directed by Lee Toland Krieger | Stars Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts, Rebecca Dayan | Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use | Now playing in select cities. Opens Friday, August 31, at the a/perture Cinema in Winston-Salem, NC, at the Park Terrace in Charlotte, NC and Concord Mills in Concord, NC.