56th BFI London Film Festival Review – Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012)

Celeste and Jesse Forever, 2012.

Directed by Lee Toland Krieger.
Starring Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Eric Christian Olsen, Ari Graynor, Rob Huebel and Elijah Wood.


Jesse and Celeste are best friends who spend all their time together. Even six months after their divorce.

Going on the opening montage and first few scenes, you’d think Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) are the perfect couple. They’ve more private jokes than any twosome should be entitled to. Rashida and Andy have an effortless charm together onscreen. They’re banter stays the right side of annoying. You’d like to hang out with them. Even as a third wheel or something.

But then, around 10 minutes in, while they’re reading the menu in mock-Dutch accents to each other, one of the friends with whom they’re double dating screams “I can’t do this. It’s too weird.” Celeste and Jesse, it seems, got divorced six months ago.

They still live together (Jesse lives in the studio out back while he looks for a job). They do this little heart shape with their arms whenever they leave each other. They’re just…not intimate.

And so the film progresses, walking down every variation of ‘you like me, I don’t like you that way back’ possible. Conflict, humour, conflict, humour. It’s very capably done, much in the same way as the recent Friends With Kids. The characters are endearing enough for you to not tire of the plot.

Initially, however, the film feels uncertain of who to follow – Celeste or Jesse? (clue: it’s written by the actress who plays the former). As a result, a few of the more expressive and subjective moments of cinematography come across rather sudden. From what seemed to be an objectively filmed comedy, there’s now shaky, unfocused, muted close-ups of a woman crying.

Once the film decides upon its subject, the characters develop (and regress) at quite a wonderful pace. So endearingly flawed is Celeste, that she can say her profession is Trend Forecaster and you don’t want to hit her in the face. Well, not too hard.

There are a few, really well-crafted jokes, too. “He’s starring in 20,000BC,” Celeste tells a friend of a recent actor date. “It’s the prequel to 10,000BC.” But there’s also a strangely miscast Elijah Wood as the ‘gay-best friend’. The intention seems for him to be a non-stereotypical GBF, as he clumsily references his sexuality in a forced attempt at sassy-ness. Unfortunately, in truth, the character just doesn’t work.

Yet that might be Celeste and Jesse’s only major misfire. The jokes, by and large, work. The emotion, characters and writing onscreen feel genuine (with writer-actress pieces like this, they usually are). But, most importantly, it undercuts any scene bordering on over-sentimentality with a glorious cynicism.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★

Oliver Davis

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