Just Talk to Your Partner

Like so many horror films, my problems with romantic comedies often stem from the stupidity of the main characters. So much of the gruesome deaths…or the heart-breaking separations…results from dumb choices taken further to dumber actions. I found Celeste & Jesse Forever to be weighed down by such stupidity.

Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) are best friends and were married for years. Not any more. They’re separated and working on a divorce. But all is not lost. They’re still best friends who hang out all the time. Jesse lives and works in the studio space behind their house. Their friends struggle to understand and are really perturbed by their on-going, close friendship. The film follows Celeste and Jesse’s attempts to navigate life after marriage and explore new relationships.

The premise of Celeste & Jesse Forever is promising enough. It would be interesting to see a couple separate just because things don’t work out as they expected and not because of cheating or some plot device so frequently used in film. Such couples, those who break up and remain friends, are rare in film, but perhaps not so in real life. You’ve probably met and/or are friends with some.

Without a man, Celeste (Rashida Jones) just lets herself go.

However, the problem that I have with the execution here is that Celeste and Jesse’s separation is ultimately pointless. They’re perfect for one another. The only explanation we get for their breakup is that Jesse doesn’t grow up fast enough for Celeste. In other words, he’s not as successful as Celeste. But we never get the sense that she’s brought this up as a problem with him during their marriage, which perhaps leads to Jesse’s hope that they will eventually get back together.

Relationships are hard work…a fact that many Hollywood rom-coms aren’t interested in honestly or maturely exploring. They’re even harder when couples don’t talk to each other. It seemed to me that so much of Celeste and Jesse’s problems could have been handled better by simply sitting down and talking to one another. Instead, they talk around each other and assume everything about how the other should act within the relationship. Celeste is a “trend forecaster” and seems to be good at her job, which makes her inability to see into the future of her own relationship even more puzzling. The film also falls into another pitfall: the tired gender stereotype of an otherwise “with it” female lead that completely falls apart when her relationship with a man goes sideways.

Jones and Samberg do have chemistry, but it’s wasted on this uninspired plot. There are some entertaining supporting cast members and a few funny sequences, but for the most part, you’re just waiting for Celeste and Jesse’s forever to end.

Celeste & Jesse Forever (92 mins.) is available on DVD and is rated R for language and drug use.