When you think of the romantic comedy genre, you may cringe when you are reminded of the clichéd formulaic films that have been brought onto us over the years. Once in a great while however, a film comes along that attempts and successfully achieves to stand out from the crowd. There is one film that premiered earlier this year at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival that dared to just that. The recent romantic comedy/drama, Celeste and Jesse Forever proves that there is hope for the genre if it ever wants to get out of its slump.
As the opening credits roll, we are introduced to Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) when they are young, happy and very much in love. As the film opens, the chemistry between the two characters make it seem that they’re doing just fine but the reality is that they aren’t just fine. Moments later, we realize that the chemistry between the two is no longer romantic chemistry, but rather chemistry that two best friends may have.
They joke around with one another and act completely oblivious to their failed marriage. Celeste and Jesse don’t want their failed marriage to ruin what they cherish the most, their friendship. It may be easy for the two of them to remain friends after what seemed like a rough separation, but it’s not so easy for their good friends who think their behavior is quite bizarre.
Later on, we are hinted at what may have crumbled their marriage. Celeste is very career oriented, successful, and desires someone that also has very career oriented goals. Jesse is an unemployed illustrator who doesn’t seem in any rush to find a job. Despite their differences, they go about their lives trying to find an appropriate balance of friendship. As reality slowly sets in, Celeste and Jesse find themselves at a point where they have to force themselves to move on which tests their friendship.
The film thankfully doesn’t follow the formula of most romantic comedies and dramas due to a strong script written by star Rashida Jones and co-writer Will McCormack. The writing is refreshing and the characters are very believable.
Lee Toland Krieger, director of the underrated film The Vicious Kind, brings a sense of quirky style. Under his direction, these characters are able to flesh out in such a unique way. This film could’ve went a predictable route but managed to find a way to be refreshing. There was a great balance established between the comedic and dramatic moments. When you watch romantic comedies, the characters have to be likeable in order for the film to work. I’ve seen far too many romantic comedies that had far too many unlikeable characters that it made the films unwatchable.
Thankfully, Celeste and Jesse Forever doesn’t have that problem. What struck me were the performances. Rashida Jones gives an endearing performance as Celeste. Although she may seem more emotionally grounded at first, her world falls apart when her friendship with Jesse is tested when Jesse decides to be the first to move on with his life. When this happens, we are forced to see her struggle. She is charming and because of her charm, we want to see her come out of this ok.
The most surprising effort is the performance by Saturday Night Live alumni Andy Samberg. He gives up his usual comedic traits to give a surprising dramatic performance as the unambitious Jesse. Throughout the film, we experience a change in Jesse that takes some acting chops. I sincerely hope that Andy Samberg follows the path of many other comedic actors and ends up being casted in more dramatic roles. The film has a supporting cast that includes Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts, Eric Christian Olsen, Chris Messina, Will McCormack, and Ari Graynor.
What the film also succeeds at is the fact that we, as the audience, are not forced to choose sides. After realizing both Celeste and Jesse have their flaws, we get a strong sense of their point of views as they both struggle. Their flaws make them more likeable in the fact that it makes them realistic. The honest truth is that we are all flawed in some way. There’s no such thing as a perfect person.
People make strange and bad decisions. When those decisions are made, there’s the opportunity to learn from the decisions. Throughout the film, it is discovered that Celeste and Jesse are imperfect but that is what ultimately draws us to them. Their imperfections and poor decisions are what make these characters eventually learn from. It’s rare that a romantic comedy displays such honesty and realism.
Most of the time, romantic comedies serve as an unrealistic escape for audiences who want a fairytale. As in life, a life of romance is no fairy tale at all because a happy ending is a hard thing to achieve. Celeste and Jesse struggle to find their own happy ending and that is what makes this film stand out. Celeste and Jesse Forever is one of those rare romantic comedies that diminish the clichés of the consistently predictable genre.
Celeste and Jesse Forever – 9/10