Celeste and Jesse Forever.

I have one hard-and-fast rule about break-ups. It’s the only thing I tell everyone they need to do. It is not influenced by culture, relationship style, or whatever -amory one chooses to engage in, and it is this: after a break-up, you don’t talk. Period. You don’t talk, you don’t text, you don’t stalk them on facebook, you just. don’t. talk. And you do this for as long as the break-up-ee wants, basically. Sometimes it can be over fast (my ex and I made up and became friends after a month of Not Talking, which I realized had to happen after we Kept Talking and then I Cried A Lot). Sometimes it won’t be. But no matter what, you don’t talk. This is because it takes time for relationship feelings to fade and friendship (if that’s what you want) feelings to grow in their place. This shit doesn’t happen overnight. And you have to unlearn how to love someone before you can learn how to like them again.

With that in mind: Celeste and Jesse are best friends. They've known each other since high school, and the longest they've ever spent apart was five weeks in tenth grade when Jesse went to Space Camp Canada. (Why Canada? Why not Canada?) They have terrible jokes together, they speak in terrible German accents together, they finish each other's sentences and are generally joined at the hip. Only here's the thing – they were married, and now they're separated and in the process of divorcing. It's weird. Everyone thinks it's weird. He still lives in the guest house out back, she still calls him to help her assemble IKEA furniture in the middle of the night. She knows it's over ("Jesse doesn't have a car. Or a checking account. The father of my children will have a car"), but he thinks she's coming back once she's had some time. Then some mildly improbable and poorly substatiated Things Happen, and suddenly Jesse is the one ready to move on, and Celeste's world tilts sideways.

That's when we, the audience, learn that this isn't actually a film about Celeste and Jesse. Despite some good chemistry between real-life best friends Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg, their relationship is never much more than a series of sweet moments. We can see why they're best friends, but I can't see them as a married couple. I can't see them fighting, though I guess I can – Celeste yelling, Jesse retreating – I just can't imagine that as a relationship model for six years. Maybe that's my own failure of imagination, but I'm inclined to blame it on the characterization of Jesse, whom we never really get to know beyond a few check boxes. That's okay, though. This is fundamentally Celeste's story.

The Things That Happen happen to Jesse. They don't make a lot of sense, and the movie doesn't ask them to; from Celeste's perspective, she has all the relevant information, and explanations are somewhat extraneous to the on-the-ground realities of the situation. Now she has to figure out what the fuck she's "going to do with all this," as Diane Keaton said during the break-up scene of Something’s Gotta Give (which I’ve seen probably eight thousand times). “All this” is all the feelings, everything her heart and mind are used to tabling in her professional career; Celeste, like so many of us, spends a lot of time being right and even more time thinking she’s right, and this sudden bomb drop of feelings that don’t really care if she’s right aren’t something she’s good at negotiating.

At one point my boyfriend turned to me and said, “There’s a lot of women in this movie!” And he’s right, there are. Ari Graynor, recently delightful in For a Good Time, Call…, continues to be delightful as Celeste’s best friend, Beth. Emma Roberts is hilarious as Riley, Celeste’s Katy-Perry-meets-Avril-Lavigne pop star client (Celeste and her other best friend, Scott (Elijah Wood), own a marketing firm). Rebecca Dayan plays Veronica, a character that could have been underwritten and bitchily characterized but is instead sympathetic, a pretty significant feat when you find out who her character is. Chris Messina, who is not a woman but whom I love and who seems to be everywhere these days, has yet another pleasant turn as Paul, a guy trying to date Celeste. (Chris Messina is basically designed to play Los Angeles sleaze-with-a-heart-of-gold. I love him, but he’s such a doof.) Will McCormack is very, very funny as Celeste’s and Jesse’s New Age pot dealer friend Skillz. The strength of the supporting cast is matched by both Jones and Samberg, who are solid poles upon which to pitch your tent. Jones, in particular, is excellent. Her comic timing is ace and she splits the difference between the Cold Bitch Learning to Feel and Career Woman Trying to Figure Out Her Life archetypes brilliantly, emerging instead as a full-fledged character when she could have been a stereotype.

I could go on, but I won’t. This is a movie about a woman that is smart and thoughtful. You should see it. It’s great.

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About Sara

I like to talk about media, food, and gender.
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3 Responses to Celeste and Jesse Forever.

  1. Elena says:

    I was upset that I liked (loved?) this movie, and I don’t know why (Why I liked it? Why I was upset? Both, I think?)

    It seemed so… bland? No climax (really), no dramatic point at which Celeste realizes that she can love again, no huge reconciliation during which Celeste and Jesse declare that they were always meant to be together…

    Somehow, the blandness of it makes it seem real and infinitely more relevant/relatable than most other relationship-ish movies.

    I still don’t really understand why I cried at this movie.

    Apologies. I’m writing this from an airplane, drunk on tiny liquors.

    • Sara says:

      What part did you cry at?

      • Elena says:

        At much of the second half, actually. I think part of it was that I was going through my first PMS in 6 years (switched contraception option), but there must have been something real to it also. It was probably watching Celeste’s experience of Jesse moving on, or something similar.

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