Examining modern relationships isn’t a rare commodity within the realm of cinema today, and it shows. Over the course of the past few years, we’ve been graced with many a romance-centric drama and/or romcom, all of which have ranged from the hilariously incisive (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) to the heartrendingly sad (Blue Valentine, Like Crazy). Expecting the latest entry to fit the mold its predecessors have so decidedly carved out for us, Celeste and Jesse Forever examines a socially relevant sect of the subgenre with surprising finesse until it devolves into something wholly uneven.
Initially focusing on the questionable upkeep of a separated couple’s close friendship, the titular Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) were once an inseparable pair forced apart romantically by the latter’s lack of ambition as a struggling artist. Nothing too groundbreaking, certainly, however it’s the script’s initial examination of each party’s struggle to cope with lingering feelings for one another that ring exceptionally authentic, prompting us to pick apart the film’s adherence to Jones’ character during a flimsy latter act. Not to discredit said individual’s maturation, as it’s refreshing to periodically see the powers-that-be examine the back-and-forth that ensues as a crumbling marriage remains in limbo for the bulk of the film’s duration.
Despite how dramatically absurd the events that transpire are, everything’s complimented wonderfully by director Lee Toland Krieger’s palpable technical expertise, employing the same knack for illustrating post-breakup awkwardness he did throughout 2009’s The Vicious Kind with great ease. Coupled with effective bits of humor, it becomes pretty easy to forgive Celeste and Jesse‘s flaws, including but not limited to the incisiveness that flies out the window with the film’s inability to continue to take itself seriously.
Like I said, Celeste and Jesse Forever is only a successful commentary on the complexities of anti-marital bliss for about 50% of its duration, losing focus of itself and one of the central characters as an adherence to Jones’ Celeste overpowers anything else the production has to offer. It’s nice to witness her emotional catharsis however, traversing the various ups and downs that go hand-in-hand with simply letting go of a past lover and life and starting anew. It’s these trip-ups that ring exceptionally authentic, allowing the relationship-centric elements of the film to shine amid the daily goings-on of the characters that are present for narrative filler’s sake and nothing else. As one of my most anticipated films of this year, Celeste and Jesse falls short of the greatness I expected of it, but as a well-rounded examination of a couple’s falling out and learning to accept their parting ways, it fits the bill all the same.