Relationships are hard. Marriage even more so. These are not groundbreaking revelations, both in life and in movies. However, some of best films that tackle this theme find a way to deal with this notion in fresh and intelligent ways. Woody Allen’s ANNIE HALL for instance was considered a landmark in romantic comedies simply because it took a new and honest look at the complicated nature of love. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY..., which was penned by the late Nora Ephron, is another example of a film that changed the romantic comedy formula.
Both of these examples are relevant when talking about CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER, the new film co-written by actress Rashida Jones and starring Jones and SNL alum and all-around funnyman Andy Samberg. The film, which starts a run at Slaughter Lane this week, chronicles the divorce of the titular characters. The striking difference between their break-up and most cinematic splits is that the two have decided to stay close friends. Everyone around them, friends and co-workers, warn them that this is a bad idea. Celeste and Jesse don’t see it that way.
The two were high school sweethearts that stayed together and married. Over the course of their marriage Celeste as been a proactive professional who now owns her own business. Jesse remains more passive about employment and hasn’t really strived to find any type of direction in that arena of his life. The main reason for the mutual split was for Celeste to move forward in her career without feeling like Jesse is bringing her down. They both agree that this needs to happen now before Celeste resents Jesse and the two form an unhealthy relationship that would end any possibility of them preserving their friendship. A friendship they both deeply value.
Jesse, who reluctantly agrees, is still in love with Celeste and Celeste realizes the transition is much harder than expected, especially when Jesse pursues other romantic interests. Can a former husband and wife truly stay close friends or do they have to let each other go in order to move on? The question is very simply, but the answer is deceptively complicated.
CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER puts Jones and Samberg, both very good comedic actors, into roles that allow them to flex their dramatic muscles. The two are up to the challenge and their great chemistry together is a big reason why the film works so well. Honest and heartfelt, CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER is a refreshing change from the formulaic romantic comedies that Hollywood pumps out each year. Instead of being clean, predictable, and cute the film successfully strives to be messy, unexpected, candid, and mature. (R.J. LaForce)
Here's what some of the nation's top critics are saying about CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER:
"Both old-fashioned and modern, both funny and melancholic, the witty, heartfelt Celeste and Jesse Forever is populated by moments that at first appear all too familiar, then turn out to surprise you." -David Lewis, San Francisco Chronicle
"The movie keeps taking us, like its characters, by surprise. I will say that it's been a while since a romantic comedy mustered this much charm by looking this much like life." -Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
"Unlike most rom-coms, Celeste and Jesse Forever delves into the complicated heart of relationships, exposes some painful truths and allows melancholy to co-exist alongside breezy humor." -Claudia Puig, USA Today
"What really lifts Celeste and Jesse Forever above the rom-com herd, besides breakout star performances from Jones and Samberg, is the movie's willingness to replace clichés with painful truths. It's irresistible." -Peter Travers, Rolling Stone