Celeste & Jesse ForeverRight from the start, the romantic comedy Celeste & Jesse Forever – new to DVD and Blu-ray this week – switches up the usual rom-com components. The L.A. couple in question, Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samburg), have already experienced their fairy-tale romance and wedding. A montage of still images in the opening title sequence shows childhood sweethearts laughing their way through engagement and marriage.
Alas, as the movie proper begins, we find Jesse and Celeste six months into amicable divorce proceedings. Celeste is something of an overachiever, it seems. As a semi-famous book author and TV personality, she's weary of Jesse's slacker ways. Jesse, on the other hand, seems to regard the impending divorce as a minor bump in the road.
Meanwhile, they're still best friends, they still go out as a couple, and they still live in the same house. There's a deep and abiding affection between the two that drives their friends crazy. Jesse and Celeste need to either get back together or make a clean break. They're not playing by the rules.
It's a clever set up, and raises some interesting questions about the state of marriage as a modern institution. Jesse and Celeste treat their divorce quite casually – just one of the many options available to the discerning Los Angeles hipster. Celeste in particular seems to regard marriage as a rather minor and disposable component of her overall achievement plan.
When an unexpected development raises the stakes, Celeste and Jesse must make some hard choices. If the movie starts out in an unconventional rom-com place, it really starts cutting against the grain from here.
Lest this all sound too heavy, be assured that Celeste & Jesse Forever is funny, first and foremost. The talented Ms. Jones – who co-wrote the script – gets the film's best scenes, both comic and tragic. A Hollywood veteran and daughter of music producer Quincy Jones, she's played a long succession of supporting roles in projects like The Social Network and TV's The Office. Apparently, she got tired of waiting for a good leading role, so she wrote one herself.
Director Lee Toland Krieger (The Vicious Kind) keeps everything humming along efficiently, for the most part. A few scenes get too indulgent, like the sequence in which Celeste slaps down a suitor with a showy speech. It also doesn't help that the Los Angeles milieu of young professional “creatives” is off-putting and slightly ridiculous – what with the yoga classes, the vegan coffee shops and the exclusive parties packed with pop stars and fashion models.
In its best moments, Celeste & Jesse Forever is a very funny movie, wall-to-wall with the explicit sexual humor that has become a hallmark of mainstream comedies in the last few years. This business can get tiresome quickly, but Celeste & Jesse Forever has a secret weapon: The jokes are clever and weirdly authentic. As R-rated romantic comedies go, Celeste & Jesse Forever is a smart and funny movie with some intriguing insights into modern love.
Extras: Bonus materials include a smattering of deleted scenes and outtakes, plus a 15-minute making-of mini-doc and interview snippets from the L.A. Film Festival. The two included audio commentaries are more fun than usual, with Samberg and Jones (the actress) cracking wise on one track, and the director and Jones (the writer) taking a more analytical tack in the other.
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Note: This was written by Glenn McDonald, a Digital Crave contributor.
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