LAFF: CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER
By Ginger Pennington
Think When Harry Met Sally, but in reverse. Celeste and Jesse Forever stars Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones in her screenwriting debut, and the result is an honest, funny antidote to romantic comedy. At the L.A. Film Festival, PPLA caught a screening and a chat with co-writer Will McCormick and director Lee Toland Krieger.
It’s easy to see why McCormick (who also plays a hilarious weed dealer named Skillz in the film) would cite When Harry Met Sally and Annie Hall as the writing duo’s inspiration for this realistically layered story. The relationship between the leads is believably complex- from years of friendship, humor, and recurring arguments- and like those famous movies, this one is set against an authentic city backdrop which adds a lot of flavor...only instead of New York, it’s Los Angeles.
At the outset of the movie, we are introduced to this amazing couple, Celeste and Jesse: inseparable buddies who love each other and share everything, including bad penis jokes. As the story progresses, we’re surprised to find out that these pals are actually in the process of getting a divorce. This relationship keeps going, though, the way relationships do when you can’t let go of someone who has become so synonymous with your identity: there’s the fact that Jesse still lives in the guest house, there are the outings with mutual friends, and there are the accidental drunken hook-ups. Krieger says it best: “You want to feel like Celeste and Jesse do get back together. If you don’t feel longing for them to get back together, it doesn’t work.”
Jesse is an artist and is at times openly emotional about the split, while Celeste is so success-driven and bright that she tries to use her intelligence to distance herself from the feelings. However, Jesse drops a bombshell that means this relationship cannot keep dragging on the way it has been, and that begins to shake Celeste’s stoicism. As McCormick said, “It’s pain—you can’t outthink it.”
Jones and Samberg are wonderful in the title roles, shamelessly letting us in on the special and embarrassing little things that go on between two people who know each other very, very well. The supporting cast adds a welcome zest with some strong character choices. In addition to McCormick’s creepily awesome turn as Skillz, Emma Roberts is wonderfully trashy as pop star Riley Banks, Ari Graynor is lovable as Celeste’s best friend, and Chris Messina is funny-sexy as Paul, a potential new suitor.
It’s impressive that this film was shot in 22 days on a budget where, according to Krieger, “everyone shows up for the right reasons because no one is making a dime,” but the love and attention to detail that went into making it is obvious. Rashida Jones and Will McCormick have already finished writing a second screenplay together. Celeste and Jesse Forever comes to theatres on August 3. Watch the trailer here.