Sunday, June 02, 2013

Celeste and Jesse Forever

Rashida Jones is best known for playing Ann on Parks and Recreation; she’s an awkward best friend with dreams of domestic bliss. Jones is an adept comedienne, especially when called upon to play her character’s romantic fumblings, and her gifts are on full display in Celeste and Jesse Forever. Jones also wrote the screenplay (with Will McCormack), and the film serves as a coming out party for her gifts as a writer and a dramatic actress. Jones plays Celeste, a Los Angeles “trend forecaster” who initially appears to be married to the goofy artist Jesse (Andy Samberg). The initial scenes of the two joking around in a car are a bait-and-switch however. Celeste and Jesse, friends since high school, are separated and in the process of divorcing. The script alludes to the issues in the marriage without showing much, and that’s a smart choice. I was prepared for the theme of male immaturity to play a larger role, but Jesse (whom Samberg plays as man surprised by his desire to do right) and his new relationship takes a back seat to the story of Celeste moving on to the next chapter of her life. As an actress Jones doesn’t shy away from making her character look a mess; as Jesse makes plans for a baby with new girlfriend Veronica (Rebecca Dayan), Celeste starts smoking weed and makes a mistake that almost costs her career.

Don’t be fooled by the presence of Jones and Andy Samberg, Celeste is a drama that occasionally nods to comedy with mixed results. There are a few uneven scenes with Elijah Wood as Celeste’s business partner, who tries too hard to subvert the sassy gay friend cliches, and I wanted Emma Roberts to have more fun as a pop star who unexpectedly crosses paths with Celeste at work. It also seems to be a film very much about Los Angeles; director Lee Toland Krieger captures a sense of people coming together in the midst of a vast city, and Krieger and Jones both seem to understand how it’s possible to feel alone in the midst of a crowd. I enjoyed Celeste and Jesse Forever for what it wasn't - a comedy that makes a fetish out of “getting it together” - and for what it says about the voice Rashida Jones wants to have as a filmmaker.

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