Since Hollywood studios seem incapable of crafting a credible—let alone charming—romantic comedy, it remains for someone in the indie world to portray a believable couple an audience can care about. Celeste and Jesse Forever comes tantalizingly close to pulling it off…close enough to recommend it, despite its flaws.
Rashida Jones and Will McCormick based the screenplay on their own relationship as best friends. That helps explain Jones’ likable, empathetic performance as an overachiever who has decided to end her six-year marriage to best-friend Andy Samberg because he refuses to grow up, get a job, and assume adult responsibility. Yet they are so completely connected, so simpatico, that their breakup doesn’t really make sense.
With that shaky a starting-point, it’s no wonder that the writers have difficulty charting the rest of the story. She loves him but can’t let go. He loves her and doesn’t want to let go. Things happen, feelings get hurt, and they both have second thoughts.
That the movie works at all is a tribute to the winning performances of its stars, the solid support they get from such engaging costars as Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, and Eric Christian Olsen, and the intimate style adopted by director Lee Toland Krieger. But my upbeat reaction began to wane as the film went on and on; it feels long, which it isn’t (at least by the clock). That’s because the story becomes repetitious and unbelievable.
The reward for sitting through Celeste and Jesse Forever comes in watching Samberg and especially Jones, who are so likable they almost make up for those shortcomings.