Jesse and Celeste Forever

Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg in “Jesse and Celeste”

I once had a female co-worker who broke up with her boyfriend but continued to see him.  I found this behavior odd.  I tried, unsuccessfully, to explain to her the incongruity of the situation.  She told me that they were still friends, leaving me to ponder the difference between being with someone versus breaking up with someone but still seeing them.  All of this has resonance in the new movie “Jesse and Celeste Forever.”

“Jesse and Celeste Forever” is a modern day relationship movie set in a thirty-something, health food oriented, seaweed eating, hyper aerobicized, yogaized (is that even a word?) Los Angeles.  Similar to the case of my former co-worker, the titular couple are in the midst of a divorce but are still very good friends.  They seem to be together constantly and even live on the same property.  Celeste has a house and Jesse, an aspiring artist, lives in a studio on the property.  They are very happy being together while divorcing.  In fact, as Celeste explains to a friend, they are happier this way than simply being married.  It is obvious that these are two people not ready to let go of each other, but try telling that to them.  My major thought through most of the movie was, why not leave well enough alone?  This might have been possible if not for a curve that is thrown their way, not to be revealed here.

As the main couple, Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg are quite appealing.  Their characters are very distinctive.  Celeste is an ambitious author who writes about American culture and is a trend predictor, while Jesse is an artist who spends much of his time watching re-runs of the Nagano Olympics.  They are a clear case of opposites attracting.

Jones also wrote the screenplay, with Will McCormack.  They have created a world that is observant and funny about life and relationships in modern day Los Angeles.  At times I had to wonder how little has changed since Woody Allen sat in that Santa Monica health food restaurant in “Annie Hall” (1977) and dejectedly ordered “alphalfa sprouts and a plate of mashed yeast.”

“Jesse and Celeste Forever” is populated by real characters as opposed to typical rom com types.  In fact Elijah Wood, who plays Celeste’s gay co-worker sarcastically tells Celeste, at one point, that he is trying to be her “saucy gay friend” and, in so doing, relieves his character of the burden of being the stock gay friend on whose shoulder the main woman character can always cry in a romantic comedy.  Other cast members include Ari Gaynor as Celeste’s best friend who cannot accept the arrangement of Jesse and Celeste being together after announcing their divorce.

All in all “Jesse and Celeste Forever” is a modern day comedy of manners with a very appealing cast.  The film is playing at Landmark’s Sunshine Theatre, 143 East Houston Street.

“Jesse and Celeste” director Lee Toland Krieger, 2012,

Sony Pictures Classics, 91 minutes, rated R

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on August 16, 2012, in Comedy, New and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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