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Review: Rashida Jones Stars in ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’ (in Theaters Today)

Review: Rashida Jones Stars in 'Celeste and Jesse Forever' (in Theaters Today)

Starring and co-written by Rashida Jones, romantic comedy Celeste and Jesse Forever opens in New York and LA theaters today.

I had a chance to see the movie at LA Film Festival this summer. It’s an adorably hipster account of a couple’s divorce, told from the wife’s point of view. From the artful opening credit sequence laying out their friendship-turned-courtship, we watch the unraveling of what seems like the perfect couple.

Jones and co-writer Will McCormack make a genuine attempt to reverse or perhaps blur typical gender roles, painting Jones’ Celeste as the take-charge, know-it-all wife with a successful career, and Andy Samberg’s Jesse as the emotionally clingy spouse who will never grow up. By the end of the story, the lines are erased and re-drawn again. At its core, the film strives to put a new spin on the argument on whether exes can truly remain friends. Wackiness, of course, ensues.

True to Jones’ heritage as the daughter of music legend Quincy Jones, the film is also chock full of nicely picked music cues, like Brenda Russell’s A Little Bit of Love [aka the original sample in Big Pun’s Still Not a Player]. It has the kind of mellow indie humor that makes for prime date-night viewing – think Judd Apatow, only a little less raunchy.

It’s also the type of film that perhaps more black audiences should embrace. I may catch some flack here, since Jones’ “allegiance” to blackness has been questioned from pretty much the beginning of her career. But in a community that constantly seeks more roles and versatility for people of color in Hollywood, a solid film starring and written by a black person that strays outside conventional ideas of blackness seems more helpful than harmful.

Find the trailer for Celeste and Jesse Forever below. For screening dates and locations, visit celesteandjesse.com.

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Comments

Happy

As a black person, this is one of my favorite romantic comedies. I agree, black people should embrace a different perspective.

Ellie

Why should more black people embrace these types of film? Why is there the assumption that they don't? And why is there an assumption that this film has anything to do with black people or black culture. This film isn't progressive for representation of black people, because it doesn't have anything to do with black people. There was no effort made on the filmmakers part to include black people, the pallet for most of the casting of this film is white and blonde. Both Celeste and Jesse lead privileged lives. And any brushes with ethnicity or even sexuality are made in gist (the black reverend, the chinese masseuses, Zeweisha as a word in scrabble). Saying that black audiences should embrace films like this is saying that black people, and people of colour, should be grateful for any specks of recognition that come their way.

anon

lol its funny how there are so many more comments on this here than on indiewire and playlist are we so thirsty for anything that vaugly resembles us in a postive way that we go ballistic? lol! this is a white film with two white leads she is not playing a black woman or even a biracial woman she is playing a white woman. Its just a shame that we cant make movies like this because judging from the trailer it looks great. But please let us not live vicarioulsy through someone elses experience becuase they have one black parent we need to make our OWN versions of C&J.

Adam Scott Thompson

I'm sold out for Rashida Jones. Fine and funny.

noel

I'm positive this film will make profits for the movie executives. I'm also positive the target audience isn't black audience to begin with. Most movies supported by black people (not the erroneous commenter here) don't make profit on an average scale. Now why should the movie executives care about some black people on the web who don't want to see their movie? Food for thought? 42 comments is just more publicity for a film you don't care about. They are winning. You are not losing though.

AccidentalVisitor

Movie reviewer Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, who has an undestandably fixation on what women are doing in Hollywood, wrote an interesting piece last month about the roles of women/girls in 2012's summer movies. She was quite pleased the roles for the girls, but was weary of the women she was seeing on the big screen. One standout portion of her articles goes :"Unlike their sisters over in the action and fantasy section, these girls of summer are failing miserably on the Bechdel Test, invented by cartoon artist Alison Bechdel to ascertain a movie’s feminist quotient. All a film needs to do in order to qualify is (1) feature at least two women, who (2) talk to each other about (3) something besides a man." Funny but true. Most female characters, even in adult films, would likley fail this test. The men remain the center of the universe, the center of the story, even when absent from a scene. For examples Hornaday cited such films as 'Ruby Sparks', 'Ted', "Lola Versus" and 'Celeste and Jesse Forever.' Here is a more detailed view of that last film : "In 'Celeste and Jesse Forever,' opening later this summer, Rashida Jones plays a similarly put-together and on-track young woman who, as she navigates a complicated relationship with the far less directed man in her life (played by Andy Samberg), is made to look either uptight, witchily judgmental or miserably alone — before she sees the light and realizes that she's the problem, what with her intelligence and high expectations and all." Hornaday expounds further regarding all of these movies by writing: "The man-children of these movies — from Ted and Jesse to the male characters in 'Lola' and 'Ruby' – may grow up, but at no real or psychic cost. Their female counterparts, meanwhile, are made to suffer, look needy or ridiculous, or simply accept the fact that it’s their ambitions and aspirations that need curtailing." This is utterly fascinating. I haven't seen any of these movies other than "Ruby Sparks" but I have to concur with Hornaday to an extent about how that movie plays out even though overall I thought well of the film. Another reviewer I came across this weekend destroyed "Ruby" claiming it was misogynist and that the lead male character was not just totaly unlikable but was able to get the happy ending without suffering enough or without having to seek and earn the forgiveness of the woman he hurt. Interesting enough in the cases of "Celeste" and "Ruby" both scripts were written or co-written by women. And those women also happend to play the lead female role in both flicks. And, yes, I have to point out that both of the leading men in both films were white as were the guys in the other movies Hornaday mentioned. So isn't this another example in which the white guy gets a free pass. Don't let that be some black male being the fool who doesn't grow up. I highly doubt his woman, in such adult films, will have to settle for scaling back her expectations and questioning her own actions. I'm gonna guess he is going to get chewed out big time by his girl, her friends and the guy that drives his bus. Regardless who it is that chastises him, in the end the man himself will have to make the biggest changes. But white dudes who pull that stuff? Movies tell us that it is cute when those guys refuse to step fully into adulthood. I'm shocked Rashida would go that route too but maybe I shouldn't be. Now if Chris Rock gets away with such nonsense in Julie Delphy's "2 Days in New York", I promise to be consistent and point out that as one example that this is not just something white male chaacters can get away with.

BluTopaz

I never understand Black people who want to claim Rashida. It would make more sense for S&A to feature a 100% White actress who is actually interesting to watch.

Justsaying

Here is what I believe… When someone is 100% Black it doesn't mean that they have 100% African blood in them but the ethnicities of their parents are both Black. Using America as a reference point: Now African Americans have a percentage of white blood in them and some have small percentage of Native American, and some even a small percentage of Asian Blood. But this is a mixture that came about over time and mainly during the history of slavery. African Blood is still their dominant percentage…Now I'M not deciding when the cut off line was-is etc but I'M saying in this age in time, the one drop rule nonsense SHOULDN'T be applied anymore. If one of your PARENTS is Black and the other is white… then you my friend are Mixed, Black/White, Biracial = Rashida Jones So with this… YOU MAY have African Americans (both of their parents are Black) with the same complexion as someone who is Biracial (One parent Black and one parent White) and it becomes complicated to classify when you are going SOLELY on physical features like skin color etc… but we must stop this and actually look at the person's history and family. Obama's mother has African Blood in her and she is considered WHITE – because of the complicated history and mixing during those 400+ years but her dominant blood is European. So it is fair to say someone is African American with some white ancestry (Quincy Jones) just as it is fair to say someone is white american with some African Ancestry.. (Obama's mother). During the time of legal slavery in the US technically many biracial children were born and deemed Black only. But to continue to use those same rules in today's day and time for the younger and upcoming generations is ridiculous. Slavery is over. Someone can be Black & White and still be celebrated by the Black diaspora, but their direct heritage/ethnicities of their parents should not be ignored even if white media doesn't celebrate them the way Black media celebrates them. Rashida Jones is Black and White and I would not consider her a Black woman.

Orville

@Jasmin my comment isn't going to be politically correct but I'm going to say it I don't consider Rashida Jones to be a black woman. Rashida is mixed race, biracial, mulatto, whatever. Rashida also looks more white than black. The difference between Rashida and say Mariah Carey is although Mariah is biracial she's always been proud of her black heritage.

Sorry, but Rashida has gone out of her way to appeal to white mainstream audiences. For instance, Rashida's love interests are usually white guys. Why couldn't black man or Asian man, or a Latino man, or a Native American man, be the love interest in this movie?

This movie isn't going to appeal to the black community it has got nothing to do with us.
@Logic I know you're trying to be politically correct BUT I think most black people prefer to see black on black romantic films.

Yes, Rashida is a woman of colour but with her light skin tone and almost white appearance she's basically almost a white woman.

Mixed race women like Rashida Jones have always had more latitude in Hollywood to crossover and reach a white audience.

And in Hollywood, if you've noticed Rashida almost always plays white characters in her movies. I can't remember, a movie where Rashida's character was specifically biracial or black?
I think that's the reason Tyler Perry is so popular is although his films don't have the best writing or storylines he appeals to black women. Rashida Jones is a good actress but this movie is clearly targeting a white mainstream audience.
Rashida Jones is a biracial actress she doesn't call herself black and she doesn't identity with the black community. Jasmin in a lot of Rashida's movies her characters the race of the her character is ignored or not mentioned which leads the audience to think her characters are white. Also, Rashida tends to have white male love interests which is fine but I also find that kind of boring. Andy Samberg is also gross to look at he's not a good actor and this movie just doesn't appeal to me.

lauren

Biracial/light skinned actresses can't win for losing… If they're in a "black film", they and the film are criticized for not casting a woman of "more" color and if they're in a mainstream film they're criticized for acting "white". Either way they're catching shade.

kid chaos

If you looked more white would you not take the easier way in life?All she knows is white so that what she is most happy with.

Logic

Shadow and act really needs some kind of troll control. Every idiot who thinks they're clever can completely derail the discussion. Anyway, I don't know or care if Rashida Jones self-identifies as black or "biracial". Whichever way you swing it, she's a woman of color and a product of the African diaspora. Yet, in basically everything wherein she's playing "the love interest", she's never shown to have family or friends of color. Why is that? POC are not cabbage patch kids, we don't spring from the earth without any connection with or to people like us. Now I don't need her to have a black best friend. Any bit of diversity will do. How about an Arab best friend or a South Asian friend? Was Mindy Kaling too busy to be one of the buddies in this flick? Same goes for Mya Rudolph in "Bridesmaids". This whole 30-something mainstream hipster/adult contempo/upright citizens brigade/Second Stage comedy set seems to have a strict quota for POC in their movies(not unlike the rest of Hollywood). One POC with a major role per movie and they CANNOT interact with any other POC for extended periods of time, lest white audiences get confused and think they're watching "Soul Plane". I don't care that the male love interests in this movie are white, but nowadays it does seem the industry feels that placing People of Color with white love interests assuages racial anxiety and the need to deal with – dun dun dun – racial issues. The message I'm getting is that POC are innately racial. Our presence alone is loaded, which means the less of us the better. Surround us with white people who like and enjoy our company and we become safer, more relatable – even more so when we look like Rashida. It's like a sign that we've assimilated and aren't secretly plotting to bring down western civilization from the inside. Black people can and do look and sound like Rashida, but I would hardly call this a "black movie" (whatever that is). The trailer reminded me of basically every frustratingly non-diverse, Arcade Fire listening, cutesy hetero couple centered, anti-romantic comedy type thingy that I've seen. They're usually uninspired and I'm left feeling like I can't relate. Then again, I couldn't quite relate to the other onscreen versions "black love" you alluded to. Annnnd that's why Imma get outta here and get back to work…

Jasmin

Thanks everyone, for your comments. I don't make a distinction between being biracial and "100% black" as someone called it. We can agree to disagree on that one. The point is simply this – this is what blackness looks like for Rashida Jones, and that's okay. She doesn't have to be kissing Taye Diggs for it to be a black film. It counts simply because blackness is part of who she is, regardless of her complexion. For other versions of indie black love, I'll turn to Ava DuVernay or Barry Jenkins or Terence Nance. If I want a more mainstream version, I'll turn to the Akils. They're all different versions of black love on screen – all acceptable, and all necessary in my opinion, if we want to show the complexity and diversity of who we are within entertainment and in the culture.

Black People

How come her best friend in the movie is being played by a white woman? Shouldn't she have sista in that role. After all she is a black woman. Sarcasm.

THE BLACK POLICE

Allegiance to blackness? LOL, black people are forever fucked. Fucked I tell you!

Black People

Black people need a re-education in race and identity. Rashida Jones DNA is is probably close to %50 African/%50 European, but she identifies as white. The world sees her as a white woman with a tan. Plenty of Southern Europeans who look like her. In the movie "I Love You Man", do you truly believe people sa a mixed raced couple? C'mon man. Are blacks really that delusional? Rashida Jones- Light eyes, straight hair, white skin (tanned)=Black Woman?

Anon

I won't be seeing this. Like someone else said why couldn't she have a handsome brother, like Michael Ealy, Jesse Williams or Idris Elba as the lead? And if she just absolutely had to have a white guy, at least get one who is eye candy. I mean, really, Andy Samberg/Sandler? Yuck! … AND, she's the only black person in the movie! I don't want to call into question Rashida's blackness, but Hollywood, like life, is political. That's just the way it is, and I don't get the sense that she wants people — fans, the general audience, producers, Hollywood, whomever — to embrace her as a woman of color — regardless of how fair her skin is. I wouldn't be surprised if, in the movie, race isn't even mentioned. Like Dwayne Johnson and Jennifer Beals, she's allowing herself to be racially neutered, which is sad. Life and art are intertwined and do imitate one another. The fact that she allows such complexities to go unchecked — whether in real life, or screen — says a lot about her as a person, and about how she feels about working with other black artists. …This reminds me of "Rachael Getting Married," a beautiful indie film written by Jenny Lumet, granddaughter of the late, great actor/activist Lena Horne. As an aside in that film, the stepmother (played by Anna Deavre Smith, with little to do) and future brother in-law of the protagonist (played by Anne Hathaway) are black, but throughout the entire movie, it's NEVER mentioned. Never touched upon. Nothing. Everyone acts as if it's just normal American life, which it isn't. I was greatly disappointed that Lumet, who also co-produced the film, didn't enlist more black actors — particularly in the starring roles. … But, then again, what should we expect from Rashida, having grown up in Beverly Hills and then straight-to-Harvard. Not to mention the fact that as many wives and girlfriends that Quincy has had, none of them have been black.

Marissa

Why do we need a review of a movie starring a white woman and an Adam Sandler look-a-like? Next —–>

Ms. Mooks

Looks awesome. Don't give two shits if the guy was black, latino, asian, indian—I don't care. Movie looks great. Work, Rashida, girl!

Cherish

This looks really good and I do want to see this. But what you said, "But in a community that constantly seeks more roles and versatility for people of color in Hollywood, a solid film starring and written by a black person that strays outside conventional ideas of blackness seems more helpful than harmful." – This issue isn't just this, just for once would like to see films like this with a predominantly Black cast. We have issues like this too. Why can't Rashida act opposite a Black guy, or have a Black couple star in this? Yeah, yeah, I know why….

ayo

I really want to see this. It looks beautiful.
I really want to see what Jones is capable of writing wise, 'cause she's already proven herself as a great comic actress.

Julia

I will be seeing this when it comes to my neck of the woods Aug. 31.

NinaG

I wanna see this

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