There inevitably will be comparisons between “Celeste and Jesse Forever” and “(500) Days of Summer,” and that’s not a bad thing.
Both are about intense relationships between young adults that end – and yet go on. Both are stories of love that has grown one-sided. And both ache with the unavoidable self-pity that goes along with that kind of situation – while finding the laughs in that same circumstance.
Written by two of the film’s stars, Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, and directed by Lee Toland Krieger, “Celeste and Jesse Forever” shows us the title characters’ happy days of the marriage in a slide-show of still photographs under the opening credits.
But the film’s real premise becomes clear in the first scene, as the titular couple (played by Andy Samberg and Jones) have dinner with a pair of soon-to-be-married friends, Beth (Ari Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen). Celeste and Jesse giggle and goof around, making personal in-jokes while perusing the menu – until Beth explodes.
She’s upset because, in fact, Celeste and Jesse have been separated for six months and are on track toward a divorce. But they seem to spend so much time together that they might as well still be married. Indeed, Jesse is living in the art studio he’s created in the guesthouse behind the house he and Celeste used to share.
Jesse is a man-child, an artist who doesn’t own a car, hold a steady job or finish any of the art assignments that might earn him a living. Celeste, on the other hand, is a professional pop-culture trend analyst and consultant who runs a branding business with her best friend Scott (Elijah Wood). She’s responsible, driven and intent on winning any argument she might find herself in. And that disconnect in their personalities, which both of them lived with for years, finally proved too much, even for a couple who are best friends.
Is it time to move on? Apparently. Yet both Celeste and Jesse secretly assume that the other will change enough for them to give it another shot. Life, however, has a way of intervening.
They’re both dating (a little) but Celeste doesn’t take it seriously. Neither does Jesse – until a hook-up with a woman he hit it off with turns into an unexpected pregnancy.
Jesse decides to try to make it work with this new woman, who is pretty and less high-maintenance than Celeste. Celeste tries to tell him – and herself – that she’s totally cool with the idea of moving on. But the notion of Jesse moving on without her – and her having no honest interest in relaunching her life – throws her.
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