A few weeks ago a couple I know celebrated their one-year anniversary. Best friends for years prior to saying their I dos, they are a great couple. Seeing him look at her and vice versa the whole Jerry Maguire-You-Complete-Me vibe is there. However, me being me, the hamster wheel started to move as a thought popped into in my head.
Is it possible to fall out of love with your best friend yet still maintain a healthy relationship?
Me being relationship-phobic I must acknowledge that I have no qualms about watching romantic comedies or romances for that matter. For women while they may be comfort food (I mean who wouldn’t want to have what Meg Ryan’s having in When Harry Met Sally?), I look at it as research. I sit and survey the physiological and psychological build-up and breakdown of a relationship.
This summer’s Celeste and Jesse Forever takes a different approach when showing the absolution of a relationship. The breakup precedes the opening of the film – a film that tries to present itself as an anti-romantic comedy, which is further from the truth. A collage of photographs plays during the opening credits fast-forwarding through Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse’s (Andy Samberg) relationship – from being a pair of shy teenagers in high school to their sexual chemistry in college, to their young in love marriage, to their present separation – all set to Lily Allen’s “Littlest Things,” as opposed to The Cure’s “Pictures of You.” The first scene post montage distinguishes itself from the start, showing the once-happy couple post-split still maintaining appearances. Not as a charade, but because they genuinely have a fun time together. This freaks out their best friends, about-to-be-newlyweds Beth Ari Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen), to no end.
How could two peopled headed to divorce be happier than a newlywed couple?
Jones, who shares screenwriting credit with Will McCormack, presents us with a small-scale relationship film. Frills are few, with ancillary characters being every bit as narcissistic as our main characters (translation: the movie is set in LA). But both Celeste and Jesse have flippant, if erudite, personalities. Still, even with college degrees and a similar sense of humor, they find themselves stuck in a post-adolescent rut – Jesse much more so than Celeste. Jesse is an artist, and a victim of Peter Pan Syndrome, living in the studio garage located next to Celeste’s house. The rationale is likely the fact that Jesse feels what they are going through is just a phase, and that they are destined to be together. Like Romeo and Juliet, only without the tragic ending. Celeste feels otherwise. But when Jesse drops of a bombshell that he’s having a baby with Veronica (Rebecca Dayan), a one-night stand that becomes something much more than that, Celeste wants him back. What a difference the prospects of having a baby has on a woman, even one who all but acknowledged that the thrill of their relationship was gone. (Had C&J had a child together pre-breakup it would have pushed the film in an entirely new direction – where Celeste and Jesse Forever becomes Kramer vs. Kramer: Round 2.)
The resulting news puts Celeste’s professional life – that of a pop-culture trend forecaster, which is to say she is like a weatherman for celebritydom – in a tailspin. She also can’t enjoy the company of the opposite sex, even Paul (Chris Messina), a guy who does everything but roll out the red carpet whenever they are together. Poor Chris. First he loses Amy Adams to Julia Child (in Julia & Julia), and now he can’t get Rashida Jones to forget about a guy who once put his d*ck in a box.
To its credit, Celeste and Jesse doesn’t go through the motions of the simple setup of boy meets girl, both fall for each other, encounter some problems a long the way, overcome said problems, and the music swells to the happily ever after ending. C&J is about love but not necessarily the eternal variety. It’s about making mistakes and regretting those mistakes, about wishes being fulfilled only for the honeymoon to end and reality to set in. Even in scenes of longing the comedy still maintains its levity. Though assurances of these two finding happiness is suspected, it may not necessarily be with one another.
After arriving on the scene with 2009’s The Vicious Kind starring Adam Scott and Brittany Snow, director Lee Toland Krieger extends the perils of relationships again with another film shot with a pseudo-documentary look, with a fantastic cast anchored by Rashida Jones and a surprisingly good Andy Samberg. Their likeable personalities fit within the confines of the comedy, and their chemistry is palpable to how comfortable each is with the other. The only sore thumb is the addition of Emma Roberts. She plays a young pop star that is a client in Celeste’s marketing firm. Her character is underdeveloped, and the way she gravitates to Celeste in a sisterly way after the two start off on the wrong foot seems like a manufactured friendship thread.
Celeste and Jesse Forever may not give viewers the ending they want, but it is the ending the film deserves. It is an honest film about love and relationship that is funny when it needs to be, bittersweet when has to be, and is comfortable always.
Director: Lee Toland Krieger Writer: Rashida Jones & Will McCormack Notable Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen, Elijah Wood, Will McCormack, Chris Messina, Emma Roberts, Rebecca Dayan
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!