Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012) Directed by Lee Toland Krieger. Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg and Elijah Wood. IMDB says: “A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.“
There has been an increase in the indie/heartbreak/drama department lately with films like Blue Valentine, Like Crazy, Take This Waltz, and now Celeste and Jesse Forever, running rampant through film festivals garnering attention and accolades. They all look at different aspects of love and the eventual heartbreak. Some tell the beginning of the relationship while telling the heartbreaking end. Some tell the whole story, some pick up in the middle, but Celeste and Jesse pick up at a much different point. Celeste and Jesse is a story about two best friends (Celeste and Jesse) who got married, then separated, but still live together and hang out all the time because they haven’t officially divorced yet. It’s starting to wear on their friends and each other, so they decide to go out and start dating other people; that’s when heartbreak begins. The story isn’t typical though, but I can’t get into that without spoiling plot points or the emotions that come with it. Sorry.
Set in California, it’s a beautifully shot film, but what else would you expect from the man (Lee Toland Krieger) who directed A Vicious Kind. The soundtrack is underground indie quirk that compliments the sights and scenes well. The cast (Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen, Elijah Wood, Wil McCormack, and Chris Messina) are all fantastic and have a chemistry between one another that stands out and tries to pull you in. Try is the key word. From the beginning, the jokes fall flat and the scenes that should hit you emotionally simply don’t. Instead, you only get the quasi-awkward feeling that is prevalent in shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation. (which oddly enough Rashida Jones is on) At times it feels like the film is a satire wrapped up in a love story. We have long scenes at vegan restaurants, we deal with up-and-coming pop sensations, and we see the day-to-day of Celeste’s job as a trend forecaster, which all feel like satire. Even the dialogue feels satirical at times because it’s drenched with laid-back west coast vernacular that can be off putting.
Written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, what starts off as a solid story idea, falls by the wayside of too much plot, and not enough character development. The film begins with a series of photos documenting their relationship, and a lot of the emotional dynamic is lost in translation. Had Jones and McCormack explored the beginning of the relationship, the wedding, or the events that led to the separation, the emotional dynamics might have been more relatable and tangible.