Film review: Celeste & Jesse Forever

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2013, 4:18pm

Starring Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Category: IIB

A likeable break-up romantic comedy that leaves you warm and fuzzy even when the leads split up, Celeste & Jesse Forever is an ideal companion piece to Marc Webb's (500) Days Of Summer.

Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg (both above) play an engaging, quirky Los Angeles couple. Despite their separation, they remain buddies, even living together. Well, she's in the house; he's in a studio above the garage. The deal-breaker appears to be that she is a grown-up with her own successful media research firm, while he's a man-child artist more focused on watching television than his paintings.

In (500) Days of Summer, relationship pitfalls were marked from the man's perspective, as a sort of primer for 'what to do when your dream girl is a total flake'. In this film, the focus is on Jones as a smart, empowered woman who must decide if things are really over with her beau, especially when another woman enters the picture.

Feminists will hate the premise of an attractive, self-sufficient woman spinning herself into a dizzy, blubbering mess for someone who didn't man-up when they were together. Other viewers may sympathise with the hurt of having expectations and your partner only changing when it's too late.

Co-written by Jones, the movie grafts a hipster urbane tone to a typical Katherine Heigl comedy. Although it works to rise above clichés, it doesn't resist them either. Director Lee Toland Krieger gives everything a loose feel, but delivers a sincere look at the difficulty of shaking and resisting attractions. The lead characters actually feel like a contemporary real-life couple, not just actors with chemistry.

Samberg, whose wicked talents on Saturday Night Live has yet to translate into leading-man stature, is amiable as the nice but not quite right guy. It would seem his character's torn passions would generate more interesting spin than the movie allows. Instead, the heavy lifting and screwball zaniness is left to Jones in a breakout performance that is intelligent and vulnerable. If those aren't naturals for a rom-com star, then nothing is.

As the heart wants what the heart wants, the same goes for movies. This film is not perfect. It has shortcomings and story drawbacks. The soundtrack tries too hard to be cool to the point of distraction. Elijah Woods' gay best friend tries too hard to be gay. But the movie is goofy, charming and ambitious enough to be a modest, respectable variation on 'boy meets girl and then leaves her'. The brain says it doesn't quite meet our standards. But, sometimes if you like it you like it.

Celeste & Jesse Forever opens today