Film Capsule: Celeste and Jesse Forever

There are moments in Celeste and Jesse Forever where it’s difficult to discern whether it’s the script, the awkward lack of on-screen chemistry, or poor acting choices that makes you want to cringe. Regardless of whether it’s one, none, or all of those things, it cannot bode well for the film.

Celeste and Jesse represents Rashida Jones’ (The Social Network, Parks and Recreation) full-length writing debut. While the film is not without its subtle charms, it plays out via a series of thematic cliches – the ex-couple that insists on remaining friends, the inevitable tension that arises when the two of them meet someone else, the night they both fall victim to desire and wind up doing the panty dance again … y’know, that type of thing.

Have most of us been there? I suppose so, sure. More often than not, we’d like to think of ourselves as the ones passing judgment on a nauseating non-couple like that. But the central problem with Celeste and Jesse Forever boils down to a more base assertion. That assertion is this: Just because a premise happens to ring true does not necessarily mean it’s the kind of thing people might like to see played out on film.

Yet, the reality is, we have seen this kind of thing played out on film before. And, what’s more … we’ve seen it done more effectively … in an endearing way that doesn’t compel audiences to cringe. That’s not really a knock against Jones or Sandler, both of whom seem to have punched their own tickets a long time ago. But it is to say that Celeste and Jesse Forever will not do for Rashida Jones what Mean Girls did for Tina Fey or Bridesmaids did for Kristen Wiig.

Then again, I’m sure if you asked Rashida Jones, she’d tell you that was never really her intention to begin with … even though it clearly was.

(Celeste and Jesse Forever opens in New York and Los Angeles today, with a national rollout to follow.)