Thursday, August 30, 2012

Real and Sincere, One of the Year's Best: Our Review of "Celeste and Jesse Forever" (2012)

Directed By: Lee Toland Kreiger

Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen

Rating: R for language, sexual content and drug use

Run Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Synopsis: Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Samberg) are two best friends who got married but decided to divorce after six years to preserve their friendship. When Jesse starts to date other women, Celeste begins to realize she may have blown the best thing she ever had going in her life.


Andrew: Hello readers! Yesterday Sarah and I caught a late afternoon showing of Celeste and Jesse Forever, the new dramady starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg (which was also co-written by Jones). This is a film that’s been in limited release so far and we just recently found out it was in our neck of the woods so it’s not one we’ve had a chance to preview but we’ve seen the trailer for it many times and it certainly caught our eye.

The topic of the film, with Jones’ Celeste and Samberg’s Jesse being best friends who were married for six years but are getting divorced yet hang out with each other constantly was something that piqued our interest. The different take on a relationship like that made us want to check it out.

Sarah, when we left the movie you seemed a bit ambivalent about it.

Sarah: I don’t know how to feel about it! It was funny, I will give it that. There were some parts that literally made me laugh out loud. Not just a chuckle, but an honest to goodness laugh. It was hilarious.

But it had a little bit of an air of The Breakup. I found it incredibly depressing. Because you’re not just watching the end of marriage as much as you’re watching the end of a friendship. And that I found to be incredibly sad. But I thought it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen Andy Samberg in.

A: Oh hands down.

S: It was like watching Justin Timberlake being good in a movie and being pleasantly surprised. That’s the same way I felt with this. We know Jones is a good actress, she has her chops. We’ve seen most everyone else in this film in other stuff and know they’re good, too.

A: There are a few recognizable faces that definitely held their own. So I agree with you that this is the best thing I’ve ever seen Samberg in that wasn’t a Saturday Night Live Digital Short. And I liked that it was his first really straight dramatic turn. There were certainly funny elements and he and Jones played off each other fantastically especially in those comedic parts, particularly the Carmex scene…

S: And the dinner scene where they did the voices! They were SO funny! And every comedy scene they had together was gold.

Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg play a pretty realistic couple, and they both handle their comedic and dramatic parts well. Certainly the best thing we've ever seen Samberg in.

A: But on the same token I think they both did a fantastic job with the dramatic parts. This is really the first time we’ve seen Jones in something serious like this. It’s certainly the first time we’ve seen her as THE leading actress.

S: This is HER movie.

A: Samberg is one of the stars but the film focuses on Celeste, and I think Jones did a great job of carrying the film. She hit all the right notes as far as being funny, being hurt by Jesse’s and her own actions…and the turn the story takes that they don’t really allude to in the trailers at all and Celeste’s reaction felt really genuine to me. So props to Jones and Samberg on being able to hit those notes, not have them feel false.

S: It was a really made film, too, for being small budget. It had its touching parts and it had its artsy moments…but it really kind of tore apart what it would be like for two best friends to go through something like this. It was very raw.

A: Absolutely! That was the exact thing I was going to say next. The whole movie felt very realistic where it broke things down and hit nerves. There were plenty of times where something would happen and we’d shift in our seats because whatever had just happened or was said on screen was REALLY uncomfortable. But uncomfortable moments happen in real life, especially in confrontations and there were plenty of moments like that in this film.

S: I thought that it was really well made and is a really good movie for these two comedic actors to play a straight dramatic role. It wasn’t forced and I enjoyed that.

A: What did you think about…well, it was raunchier than we expected. What did you think about that?

S: I felt that some of it was unnecessary but the FUNNY bits of raunchiness were hilarious. It’s not like there are overt sex scenes but it’s definitely talked about. It’s a verbal raunchiness for the most part with the occasional sight gag. I was fine with it because again it was very realistic. It didn’t feel super scripted.

A: I totally agree. The script and the delivery by all the actors involved felt very real. In fact, some of the funnier moments to me were very subtle things, especially on Jones’ part. A personal fav scene was when Eric Christian Olsen’s Tucker meets a woman Jesse had a one-night stand with – just a scene where a guy meets another attractive woman even though his wife is RIGHT THERE.

S: Oh I missed that!

A: It made me chuckle. Small things like that. Or like Elijah Wood!

S: Elijah Wood, I think, felt the most forced. But at the same time the bursts of humor he threw out there hit all the marks.

A: Well his character was also trying to force being funny, so it fit!

S: Oh he was super awkward! I really liked him.

No, really, Elijah. We would have liked to have seen more of you in this movie. We can't believe it either!

A: It was a funny turn and I wish they had used him just a little bit more, but again it’s Celeste’s movie and he’s a bit player in it.

S: It was, you’re right. Because I also wish they had used Samberg a bit more, but again, it’s not HIS movie.

A: So I really liked Celeste and Jesse Forever. It felt incredibly real to me. The one thing that I did not like, and it struck me as the only insincere part of the movie, was the subplot involving Emma Roberts’ pop star singer, Riley Brooks. And not the early scenes when Celeste first meets her but later on when…

S: They develop a bit of a friendship.

A: Yes! They kind of bonded and I was just like…ok, that feels contrived.

S: Yeah, I felt that her whole character was unnecessary to begin with but they obviously wanted Roberts in there…

A: Well the filmmakers obviously needed to give Celeste a career and to show us what she does with it, and they needed to give her some sort of conflict, but it’s a small thing. I just think they could have taken it in another direction.

S: Because I do think the conflict was needed, but in a different direction, yes.

A: Exactly. Now that I think about it, the only other false note was the VERY last scene where the dude “cuts her in line” at the gas station. And the only reason I didn’t like it is because he DID NOT cut her. She was walking to the counter and…

A & S (in unison): He got there first.

A: That’s not cutting! And he apologizes for it? So that scene where she supposedly grew up just a little bit for not calling him out on it felt a bit forced. But those are the only two things, I’m not going to dock the movie a whole lot for it.

So what are our overall thoughts on Celeste and Jesse Forever?

S: I think if this movie comes close to you it makes a great matinee movie.

A: I’d say it’s one you need to see in theatres regardless! It’s one of the funniest, most truthful feeling movies I’ve seen in a long time.

S: Dare I even say it’s the less-budgeted cousin of Crazy, Stupid, Love? Because that’s the balance it had between the funny and the serious.

A: Yes! Exactly. So this is one I think you should see in theatres. It’s one of the year’s best so far.

S: I think you’re right.

FINAL VERDICT: A must-see in theatres!

(Out of Five clapboards)
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  1. Awesome review. This flick touched me in a way, mainly because of the heartfelt script, but also because of Jones' performance. She feels like a real person going through some real heartbreak and that scene at the wedding ceremony really got to me in a way I wasn't expecting. Still, the dialogue can be a bit annoying in it's pseudo-hipster/witty kind of way.

    1. Thank you Dan! Yeah, the dialogue got a little too "independent film" at times, but for 99% of the film the dialogue felt very realistic to us and was nailed in its delivery by all the actors involved. Glad you liked this as much as we did!

  2. I wanted to watch this movie but was a little dissuaded from it, because it looked too much like a quirky rom-com. After reading your review I might give it a try - I'm definitely interested now.

    I just discovered your blog and thought the way you guys write reviews is very compelling and unique, I loved it!

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Paula! We've just started exploring your blog and we really enjoy it! We're gonna have to post a comment on your True Grit post.

      And yes, Celeste & Jesse Forever was one of those films where we could tell it would be "quirky" from the trailer, but with the talent involved we had to give it a chance. And we're glad we did!