Can Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg become Hollywood’s next power couple? Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes recently split. There’s has to be a void somewhere that needs filling. Better yet, they could replace Brad and Angelina atop the industry’s social hierarchy. We could call them Sam-Jo, or possibly Jo-Berg.
There’ll be time for cutesy nicknames later. For now, let’s just bask in the sarcastic chemistry and tender, emotional concern generated by these sensitively funny comedians in Lee Toland Krieger’s Celeste & Jessie Forever, an unconventional break-up comedy that – despite its novel premise – still stumbles into a few too many rom-com ruts.
Jones co-wrote Forever with her close friend Will McCormack, allegedly basing it loosely on their own short-lived romantic experiment. Their experience bleeds through the narrative, juicing scenes with a welcome authenticity as they present a relationship rarely seen on screen.
Celeste and Jesse are caricatures of the relationship formula, and we don’t so much root for their reunion (or realization that it won’t work) so much as we watch them go through predestined motions. Celeste & Jesse often plays as a spewing therapy session where everyone’s given a chance to weigh in on the main couple’s flawed existence – from Celeste’s gay co-worker (Elijah Wood) to Jesse’s pot-slinging confidante (McCormack). But the movie finds multiple ways to introduce necessary flavor.
There’s an earthy, New-Age, Southern California vibe to the screenplay’s dialogue, which is introspective about the state of its relationships but purposefully superficial … as if it’s afraid to fully commit. Forever embraces the awkwardness that accompanies various stages of new (and old) relationships. When it accurately portrays the pain of the contemporary dating scene, you completely understand why Celeste and Jesse prefer to linger in the protective bubble of a semi-working relationship. We know Samberg and Jones can be funny, so they don’t try as hard to get the laugh here. Instead, they probe beyond the obvious joke to paint a well-rounded portrait of a difficult relationship. Jones, specifically, is more mature and strong than we’ve seen her be before. And Krieger has a terrific ear for the right pop-alt song to go with his various scenes.
Moments of beauty often elevate Celeste & Jesse above the litany of forgettable rom-coms that reach theaters on an annual basis. But the indie-sensible Sundance hit doesn’t reach for the sky with its revelations, preferring to zero in on the small but relatable problems of two familiar individuals. Its impact might not stay with us forever, but you’ll appreciate what Forever shares about its characters, and about us.
Reviewed By: Sean O'Connell