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Unwedded Bliss

film celestejesseBreaking up is hard to believe in otherwise funny, engaging ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’

It's a premise you could only find in the movies. A couple of hip, young thirtysomethings, Celeste and Jesse, are longtime best buds; they go everywhere together, lapse into jokey accents and game-playing, consistently crack each other up—and after six years of marriage, they're in the process of getting a divorce.

OK, people change, but that's not the weird part: they continue to live life joined at the hip, seeing the same friends, cracking the same jokes, enjoying themselves and each other hugely. Um, why exactly are these guys getting divorced?

That's the big question in Celeste and Jesse Forever. The short (and obvious) answer is, to create conflict so the scriptwriters will have something to write about. Answering this question within the context of the story itself, however, is not quite so easy, and causes some problems for writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, who also act in the film. Still, beyond its romantic complications, Jones' and McCormack's script is so funny and their characters so engaging, it's well worth suspending one's disbelief.

Directed by Lee Toland Krieger, the film introduces pert, motivated Celeste (Jones); a borderline Type-A personality leavened with a wacky sense of humor, she's a "trend-spotter" with an L.A. PR firm. A critic of junky pop culture (she's just written a book on the subject called "Shitegeist"), she is nevertheless employed in the business of keeping the firm's famous clients in the forefront of it. Jesse (Andy Samberg), her best friend since high school, and husband of six years, is a good-natured slacker with artistic leanings who would rather go catch a wave than follow up a lead on an illustrator's job.

That's it for conflict. ("He doesn't even have a checking account," Celeste complains to a girlfriend. "Or dress shoes.") They claim they used to fight all the time, but now that divorce is pending and Jesse has moved into his studio in the backyard of their house, they're getting along better than ever—to the point that their best friends (Ari Graynor and Eric Christian Olsen) are seriously weirded-out by their ongoing co-dependence.

Celeste's boss (a droll Elijah Wood) and Jesse's weed-dealing buddy, Skillz (co-scripter McCormack) urge them both to date other people and move on. Jesse is daunted at the prospect of "starting over," and Celeste considers herself too busy, but once one of them gets set up on an impromptu date, it becomes a kind of competition, in which they both feel they have to keep up. But when one of them gets serious about someone else, everything changes, and Celeste and Jesse face the consequences of really letting go.

But because it never feels like there's anything inherently toxic about the couple's relationship or inevitable about their split, the writers are hard-pressed to make their choices make sense from scene to scene. (Ultimately, they have to introduce a pregnancy subplot to up the stakes, which always feels a bit forced.) Once this monkey wrench has been thrown in, however, the writers are persuasive in showing how much love, friendship, and dreams depend on timing as Celeste and Jesse struggle to adjust and grow in the same direction at the same time.

Meanwhile, the satire on pop culture is often hilarious. A horrified Celeste has to promote vacant teen pop idol Riley Banks (Emma Roberts), whose repertoire includes the song "Do It On My Face." ("She's like a vagina and a hair-do!" wails Celeste.) Her caustic one-liners and the deadpan goofy sweetness of Samberg's Jesse keep things in high gear throughout. (Jones is particularly funny as Celeste turns to running, yoga, alcohol, a gigantic bong, and eating binges to fill up the hole in her life.)

Better still, scribes Jones and McCormack draw the peripheral characters with just as much sympathy and humor as the leads. Chris Messina is great as a yoga classmate Celeste tries to dismiss with a few withering remarks who turns out to be surprisingly simpatico. film celesteAnd even the dreaded Riley has the wit to accuse Celeste of "contempt before investigation," before turning into an unexpected friend. Best of all, there's no pat resolution to the story—in which respect Celeste and Jesse is refreshingly like real life.

CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER

★★★ (out of four) Watch film trailer >>>


With Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Will McCormack, and Emma Roberts.
Written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger.
A Sony Classics release. Rated R. 91 minutes.

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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Film, Times & Events: Week of February 12

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