Rashida Jones has arrived
Celeste And Jesse Forever (2012)
Lee Toland Krieger
Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg
Despite being separated for six months, best friends Celeste and Jesse still spend their every waking moment together. Did they break up too soon or are they really ready to move on?
Celeste and Jesse Forever may be directed by Lee Toland Krieger but it’s really all about Rashida Jones. The 36 year old daughter of Quincy Jones (yes the Quincy Jones) is still best known for her TV roles in The American Office and Parks and Recreation but that may be about to change as she writes, produces and stars in this effective romantic comedy.
The script, written with one time partner Will McCormack (who also features) sidesteps some of the tired clichés of the genre by starting at the crisis point of other films – the couple is already over, and a nice reversal in the opening moments reveals that to the audience.
From there, we’re left to wonder at the motivations of the two main characters, with the film quite content to throw a surprising number of twists into the mix.
Jones is paired on screen with comic actor Andy Samberg, who has had an unfortunate habit of being seen with Adam Sandler a little too much of late. His character is sidelined here, but Samberg does enough with the dramatic stuff to not embarrass himself, while creating a cute pairing with Jones that’s never too annoying to watch.
But the film really belongs to Jones, with the camera lingering on her striking features in close up and the emotional moments mostly played from her point of view. She’s perfected a kind of flip delivery in her comedy appearances which serves her well here but she’s also clearly relishing the chance to get some proper screen time. It’s an impressive performance, full of subtlety and open to embarrassment.
Celeste and Jesse is refreshing in its decision to shy away from easy answers. Jones’ character is arrogant and judgemental and pays for those issues by being forced to come to terms with her mistakes at a realistic pace. There’s no sudden reconciliation or magic solution on the cards – she’s instead faced with months of despair, a food dependency, drunken idiocy and a couple of amusingly failed dates.
Krieger’s second feature is altogether competent; the shallow focus photography looks great though sometimes things are a little too digitally dark and dreary. There are moments that feel a little unfocussed, like the scenes involving Emma Roberts’ pop star bitch and Elijah Woods’ uber-awkward gay best friend but otherwise the pacing is strong and Krieger knows to give his leading lady room to breathe in her dramatic scenes.
Celeste and Jesse Forever is certainly not a reinvention of the rom com but it does enough to set it apart from the that increasingly crowded genre, without going the obvious route into farcical comedy. Add in a long overdue star making turn from Jones and you’ve got a fun little indie that’s well worth checking out.