DIR: Lee Toland Krieger • WRI: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack • PRO: Lee Nelson, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd • DOP: David Lanzenberg • ED: Yana Gorskaya • DES: Ian Phillips • CAST: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts
Rashida Jones has charted an interesting career so far. Beginning on Paul Feig’s late 90’s excellent TV comedy series Freaks & Geeks to starring in the hit comedy series Parks & Recreation, it’s clear that her star is slowly on the rise. With Celeste & Jesse Forever, her first major leading role in a feature film, her considerable charm and wit is brought to the fore. It charts the story of Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg), two thirty-somethings who have managed to maintain their friendship in the midst of a divorce – almost to the point where it’s indistinguishable that their marriage is in the process of ending. Celeste, a ‘trend analyser’ is the atypical working woman – all yoga, iPhones and execu-speak – whereas Jesse is an underemployed graphic designer and artist. Despite the cliched clash of careers, both actors imbue their roles with a sense of authenticity and realism that’s often lacking in indie comedy-dramas. The script – written by Rashida Jones and co-star Will McCormack – isn’t as clever as it thinks it is, however. There are some scenes, particularly with Samberg, that feel forced and unnatural.
That said, the relationship that Samberg and Jones create on-screen feels genuine and relaxed, much like their characters’ attitude towards one another. The supporting cast, made up of Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts and Will McCormack, turn in reasonably decent performances, but don’t necessarily jump out and announce themselves. The bulk of the film rests on Jones’ and Samberg’s shoulders and, for the most part, they carry it off. Samberg’s role is cleverly minimised to hide his lacking ability whereas Jones is brought to the fore. The film is almost definitely a launching pad for her into film and the performance can and will launch her. While the script is somewhat bland, it’s anything but insincere and comes across as a real and meaningful attempt at telling a knowing and real story. As well, the film suffers from some pacing issues and begins to drag its heels in the final act. If the film had been given a more experienced director, a much more polished, tighter feel could have been achieved. However, this would have gone against the wispy, unfettered approach they’re obviously trying to achieve. Overall, Celeste & Jesse Forever is a decent romantic dramedy that will move Rashida Jones on to big and better things.