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PARK CITY — A likable and bittersweet relationship film that doesn’t telegraph its intentions, Celeste and Jesse Forever borrows tropes from the rom-com playbook and has enough laughs to be mistaken for one but ultimately doesn’t want to be pigeonholed. Though not outrageous or star-powered enough to set the box office ablaze, it could connect with viewers who don’t walk in expecting an extension of co-star Andy Samberg‘s Saturday Night Live antics.
Fans of Rashida Jones on Parks and Recreation, though, will find themselves on more familiar ground: Jones’ Celeste, like her character there, is a highly competent professional who can’t see straight in relationships. Having been married a few years to her longtime best friend Jesse (Samberg), she asks for a divorce after growing impatient with his lack of ambition. The two separate but continue to spend all their time together.
This comfy setup can’t last, and when friends convince Jesse to start dating, Celeste predictably takes it badly. Instead of setting Celeste on a familiar, Awful Truth-style sabotage campaign, though, the script (which Jones wrote with Will McCormack) becomes an uncomfortable journey of self-discovery for the character, who starts lousing up even the parts of her life she normally handles well.
Jones is great in the part, even if this movie doesn’t quite prove she should be carrying films on her own, and the actress makes her character’s clumsy heartache feel like more than a plot point. Other story elements are less believable, like a subplot involving a sleazy young pop star (Emma Roberts), whose career and personal life suddenly intersect with Celeste’s, but director Lee Toland Krieger keeps things light enough that a touch of implausibility won’t bother many viewers.
Samberg is highly sympathetic, playing things much straighter than usual; if he and Jones don’t have much chemistry that’s only to the benefit of the friends-not-lovers theme.
Production Companies: Team Todd, Envision Media Arts
Sales Agent: UTA
Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Chris Messina, Ari Graynor, Emma Roberts, Elijah Wood, Eric Christian Olsen
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Screenwriters: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack
Producers: Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd, Lee Nelson
Executive producers: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack
Director of photography: David Lanzenberg
Production designer: Ian Phillips
Music: Sunny Levine, Zach Cowie
Costume designer: Julia Caston
Editor: Yana Gorskaya
No rating, 90 minutes
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Walt Disney Animation Studios