While September is usually considered a dumping ground for the product that the major studios offer us, this month is packed with interesting indies. The first of those offerings is actually being released this weekend, Celeste and Jesse Forever.
Celeste is the story of a couple going through a difficult separation. Celeste (Rashida Jones) is a successful member of a media company, who specializes in spotting upcoming trends among consumers. Jesse (Andy Samberg) is an artist who appears to be in no hurry to land a new job, happily living off of unemployment and using his now abundant free time to surf.
When the film opens, the couple have been separated for 6 months, but still seemingly spending every spare moment together; they are that former couple that still remain best friends that can only be found in works of fiction. After being called out on how weird their relationship is by their best friends (Ari Graynor and Eric Christian Olsen), they begin the difficult process of truly separating from each other and meeting new people.
Jesse reconnects almost immediately with a former one-night-stand, who to his surprise turns out to be pregnant with his child. Celeste’s journey into singlehood is a bit more treacherous, as it involves horrible date after horrible date, and finally substance abuse in an effort to enjoy anything in her life.
A late night call involving a piece of IKEA furniture leads to a night of momentarily reignited romance between the two, which itself leads into a morning of regret. Feeling hurt by this rejection, Jesse cuts Celeste from his life, deciding to put 100% of his efforts into his new relationship. Celeste flounders around, not quite understanding how to keep Jesse in her life without making him the most important part of her life.
Despite the above description, I promise you that this is a romantic comedy. It is perhaps the finest dramatization of separation in the 21st century, where unfriending someone on Facebook is perceived to be the final nail in the coffin of any relationship.
This film is brought to the screen by Rashida Jones; while she may not have directed it (leaving that to the capable hands of Lee Toland Krieger), she produced and wrote the screenplay. One has to wonder how much of what we see on screen came from Jones’ life. Whereas in a major studio film, this story would almost certainly be told from the viewpoint of the male lead (think Knocked Up), here we are given the female side of the story. Not just any female, either, but a female in her mid-to-late 30s; this isn’t getting major backing from Hollywood unless Blake Lively can star in it.
The opening credits are a work of art in and of itself. Seemingly homage to the opening of Up, we are shown the beginning of a young romance between the two in school, and taken all the way to the unraveling of the relationship in around a minute’s time. It is a lovely piece of business, almost a Cliff’s Notes version of Blue Valentine.
I have always been a huge fan of Rashida Jones’, and here she is finally given her moment to shine, even if she had to give it to herself. Celeste and Jesse Forever is one of the most rewarding films to hit cinemas this year, and the fact that it hits cinemas this weekend gives me hope that there might be a diamond or two buried in the early fall schedule.