Title: Celeste and Jesse Forever
Directed by: Lee Toland Krieger
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: August 3, 2012 (Limited)
Synopsis: A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people. (Via IMDB)
Brian: Every year I await that one breezy, charming, effortless comedy from the Sundance Film Festival with great anticipation. There’s always at least one that I fall in love with. In 2009, it was the modern romantic comedy classic 500 Days of Summer, which I’ve watched probably five or six times, and that I absolutely adore. In 2010, it was The Kids Are All Right, one of the most heartfelt and beautifully acted ensemble family dramas of recent years. Last year, I fell for Win Win, one of those movies that just came out of nowhere and punched me in the gut. And now, I’ve found my 2012 candidate: Celeste and Jesse Forever is a laugh-out-loud, and oftentimes very sad, look at the crumbling of a marriage, that gives star and co-writer Rashida Jones the breakout performance she’s deserved for years, and Andy Samburg, so underutilized in movies, his first great meaty role. Featuring a memorably wacky supporting turn by Elijah Wood, this movie really worked for me, and gave me new hope for the romantic comedy genre.
Shaunta: I disagree that Celeste and Jesse Forever is about a crumbling marriage. It’s more about two people who are perfect for each other, start taking that for granted, and then don’t have the chance to make it right. I do agree, however, that I have never laughed so hard at a movie before. Tears were streaming down my face. The first 7/8 of this movie blew me away. I’m not usually big on romantic comedies, but this one was something special. Until they went and ruined everything in the last ten minutes. There’s a twist near the beginning that I don’t know if we should give away. But to me, I couldn’t fully enjoy this movie with Celeste and Jesse not together due to external circumstances. I haven’t rooted for a couple this hard since Ross and Rachel, and I left the theater sad, which totally blindsided me.
Brian: While I agree that the ending to this film isn’t perfect – it does end rather abruptly – I differed with you in that from the beginning I felt like this was going to be a film about two people who may seem great together, but who are ultimately better with other people. In Celeste and Jesse’s first scene, they anger the hell out of their engaged couple friends because they are separated, on their way to divorce, yet remain the best of friends, like nothing is wrong. I found their relationship rather awkward from the get-go, and ultimately I would have felt manipulated if they ended up together in the end, not the other way around. But them going their separate ways in the end wouldn’t necessarily be a caveat, even if I wanted them to be together. I like movies that don’t necessarily end the way you expect them to, and I especially feel that way with romantic comedies, which so often feel by-the-numbers from beginning to end, almost like McDonald’s comfort food. My favorite romantic comedy is When Harry Met Sally, a movie where the main couple DOES end up together, so I promise, I’m not a pessimist when it comes to this issue. But my other two favorite romantic comedies are 500 Days of Summer, which is constantly surprising in its narrative, and Annie Hall, the brilliant, hilarious study of two people who meet cute, fall in love, and break up. So it would never ruin a movie I’m enjoying if the main couple doesn’t end up together. What I pay attention to in a movie like Celeste and Jesse Forever is if the movie has an original voice, if it makes me laugh, if it features good, honest performances, and if it gives me more to think about than your standard Hollywood romcom. And this film delivered all four.
Shaunta: I’m not sure how being so close, despite separation, that they annoy their friends means they are better off with other people. They annoyed their friends because THEY BELONGED TOGETHER. Celeste and Jessie Forever tries hard to bypass the Rom Com tropes. But in the very end, it becomes very conventional, with the female lead having to realize that she’s a bitch in order to move on (and apparently be better off with weird, creepy yoga guy?) with her life. So, it had an original voice for the most part, and then sprung the oldest story in the world on us at the very end. It’s all the girl’s fault, even though she’s the one who has her shit together. I loved a lot of it. Sadly, what I loved the most was negated by the ending. I promise you this, though: I will NEVER look at a tube of lip balm the same way again. Ever. In the end though, I didn’t believe that Celeste and Jesse were better off with other people. Especially not the other people they ended up with. I didn’t believe that without that one twist in the beginning, which stretched the limits of believability to begin with, they wouldn’t have ended up together. Without buying into all of that, the last few minutes of the movie diminished the whole for me. Not enough that I didn’t enjoy the parts that I loved, but enough that I probably won’t watch it again.
Brian: I too will never look at a tube of lip balm the same way again. Celeste and Jesse have a funny bit where they pretend like they’re jerking off the lip balm and cheering when it finally “jizzes” all over the place. One of my favorite parts of watching the movie was actually watching Shaunta cover her hands over her face and wiggle in disgust, like she was watching the real thing. “That’s so disgusting!” she shouted. I was laughing. BIG LAUGHS. All in all I had a great time at Celeste and Jesse Forever. It’s not perfect but it’s absolutely worth seeing. I’ll be surprised if I find a romantic comedy as funny and fresh the rest of this year.