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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Celeste and Jesse Forever

How much you like Celeste and Jesse Forever will depend entirely on how you feel about Rashida Jones and her performance. This is her movie, she co-wrote the script with an ex-boyfriend, and she gave herself a really juicy part to play. Celeste is a whip-smart career woman whose marriage to her best friend fell apart seemingly without blowing up the friendship. Now she and Jesse (Andy Samberg) are still spending all of their time together and driving their friends nuts. But when Jesse’s life takes a new direction, Celeste realizes she isn’t ready for him to move on.

The smart woman with a career who can’t seem to find a man is about the most cliché of rom-com staples, but Jones’s skilled acting and nimble script manage to find the real woman behind the myth of so many indistinguishable Katherine Heigl movies. Celeste is a rom-com heroine with real personality defects and real things to learn about herself. Jones and co-writer Will McCormack take her on a meaningful journey of self-discovery, and it is refreshing to see a film where the ultimate destination isn’t the altar but a personal epiphany.

Every other part in this picture is a supporting role, even Samberg’s, but each is a fully-realized piece of the puzzle, and all are ably portrayed by gifted actors. Ari Graynor and Eric Christian Olson are the couple whose trajectory contrasts Celeste and Jesse. Elijah Wood is very good as Celeste’s strait-laced, gay business partner, and the suddenly ubiquitous Chris Messina is a charismatic presence as the guy who tries to get Celeste to move on from her marriage.

The film is very well-edited and directed, with several very snappy cuts and arresting images. The filmmakers are smart enough to keep most of the attention directly on Jones. Her expressive, lovely face is a compelling reason to keep your eyes affixed to the screen.

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