Lee Toland Krieger’s “Celeste and Jesse Forever” presents a fresh premise for a romantic movie with two perfectly likable characters at the center. And had the movie been solely a romantic drama it could have been really good. Unfortunately, it also goes for humor and in this case the two methods don’t compliment each other one bit.
Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones (who also co-wrote the film with Will McCormack) play Jesse and Celeste. They met in high school, instantly clicked and were married for quite some time. When the movie starts they’re in the process of getting a divorce but they appear to be the best divorcees ever. There’s no tension or awkwardness between them. They never fight. They remain really good friends. In fact it’s a little strange. But that positive post-marriage relationship begins to crack, as the two can’t seem to move on. Each time one of them goes out with another person they get jealous and if they want to remain good friends they have to find a way to work it out.
When it comes to the serious stuff, “Celeste and Jesse” works exceedingly well. All of the scenes are handled with a great level of maturity and compassion. However, the picture also wants to be a comedy and in that regard “Celeste” can’t find a consistent comedic focus. Sometimes there’s straight up physical gags, then there are the usual brand of drunk and stoned people making fools of themselves jokes, and finally conversational rants between characters in the vein of Judd Apatow. Whichever kind of joke it is, none of it works. In fact all it does is bog down the serious stuff.
Rashida Jones is known mostly for supporting character roles. She was on NBC’s “The Office” for a little while and she currently has a reoccurring side role on another NBC show, “Parks and Recreation.” While it’s great that she gave herself a starring role for the first time, she can’t carry it. Like the rest of the movie, she’s not bad when dealing with the serious material but she simply is not at all funny. On “Parks” she’s at least tolerable because she plays the comic straight man. While her co-stars clown around she’s there to tell them they’re stupid and try to stop them from getting into trouble. In “Celeste” she becomes the clown, which makes for disastrous results. She’s either way over the top or just flat out bland. She can’t find a middle ground.
Luckily Samberg is there to help her move the picture along. He’s mostly known for being a cast member on SNL so he can do comedy fairly well and he’s surprisingly effective in the dramatic portions. If everyone and the script had stuck to the dramatic stuff than “Celeste” might have been one of the better movies of the year. But with the comedy what we’re left with is a disappointing attempt at a dramedy.