There is longstanding complaint — and with good reason — about the lack of good female roles in the movies. One path to correction is for actresses to write their own parts, and the actress/screenwriter double dip has proven a positive recent microtrend — most notably with Kristin Wiig's triumphant Bridesmaids, most recently with Zoe Kazan's conceptually provocative but only half-realized Ruby Sparks. Now comes Celeste & Jesse Forever, a quasi-indie, Sundance-launched anti-romance starring, co-written, and co-produced by Rashida Jones.
Jones has been a smart, brisk presence is many supporting roles lately (on television's Parks & Recreation, in big-screen comedies Our Idiot Brother and I Love You, Man). She's attractive but unfussy. Comedic but not manic. And she's in line for a showcase.
Set in a Los Angeles that the film has a sure feel for, Celeste & Jesse Forever captures its thirtysomething title couple after the most amicable divorce in human history. Celeste (Jones) is a high-powered marketing consultant who judges things in quick soundbites even when off-duty. Jesse (Andy Samberg) is a struggling illustrator more interested in catching a wave than securing a job. They seem mismatched, and it's easy to see how young love evolved into a more platonic bond.
And yet they remain close — literally so in that Jesse still lives in his backhouse studio behind the former family home that Celeste maintains. So close, in fact, that it greatly bothers mutual friends who think the couple needs to get back together or get on with their lives.
While the title and conceit presents the film as a couple's story, it's more about Celeste. She's a successful but tightly wound career girl who learns to loosen up, and the film presents her story almost entirely in the context of her relationships with men. So, while Celeste and Jesse Forever is a little more grounded, more lived-in, and more generous than most modern rom-coms, it also feels disappointingly familiar.
Celeste & Jesse Forever
Opening Friday, August 31st