Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Celeste & Jesse Forever’ Review: Unlikable Characters in a Messy Script

The main problem with “Celeste and Jesse Forever” is that the film is marketed as a romantic comedy, when all in all it’s a sad portrait of a couple going through a divorce. There is nothing wrong with a good dark comedy or a relationship drama, but in this movie, the lead characters are so unlikable we can’t help but wonder why we are watching their journey in the first place.

Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (SNL’s Andy Samberg) were once high school sweethearts, but are currently going through a separation after being married five years. However, the two still live in their house together, go to dinner with mutual friends and remain buddy-buddy with each other. Celeste runs a successful media consulting firm, while Jesse is unemployed, looking for work. Even as they grow apart romantically, they are doing their ultimate best to carry on their lives as friends.

Their friends and Celeste’s co-worker (Elijah Wood) try to convince them that there is still a spark, but despite what everyone is telling them, the two move on and start dating other people. Obviously, it doesn’t end well. Jesse gets deeply involved with someone else and when Celeste realizes their relationship may soon come to an end, she loses it.

Jones, who also wrote the script, doesn’t allow the characters to be anything but one-dimensional. Celeste thinks she can do whatever she wants on her end and still ultimately have Jesse. Jesse is obviously still in love with Celeste, but he never tries anything to win her back. Celeste is egotistical, unsupportive and insensitive, while Jesse is lazy, irritating and boring. How can we like and root for such messed up people?

The script needed more scenes of Jesse and less of Celeste. Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of Celeste as a character, Jones does an excellent job of carrying the film from start to finish in her first lead role. It’s just too bad she never gives her character a break to focus on Jesse and what he is going through. With that being said, Samberg is definitely miscast in this movie. This doesn’t mean the usually comedic actor needs to stick with comedy his entire career, but this is one role he should have passed on, as he felt extremely out of place in the film.

Although there are a few moments of devout charm, “Celeste and Jesse” feels way too long and isn’t the couple we want to root for.

“Celeste and Jesse Forever” opens in limited release August 10, 2012.

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