Like some sort of romcom superhero, Rashida Jones breaks out of the girlfriend box in "Celeste and Jesse Forever."
In a story she co-wrote that was inspired by her life, she stars as Celeste to Andy Samberg's Jesse. They are former high school friends who got married but now are separated, although you wouldn't know it by their banter, inside jokes and the vast amount of time they spend together.
Their arrangement is driving their pals crazy. "You're getting divorced and you spend every day together hanging out as if it's no big deal," Beth (Ari Graynor) says during a night out with the pair.
2.5 stars = Average
- Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg.
- Rating: R for language, sexual content and drug use.
Jesse says this is a good thing because no one has to choose sides, but even Beth's fiance complains, "This is too weird," before fleeing.
Celeste is an intense, hard-working owner of a media consulting firm and trend forecaster. Jesse is an illustrator who is happy to go surfing instead of pursuing a job. Celeste complains to Beth that Jesse doesn't have a checking account or a pair of dress shoes and says the eventual father of her children will own a car.
This divide is what drove them apart, but when Jesse reconnects with a woman he dated earlier in the separation, Celeste (especially) has to come to terms with a change in their relationship. As a newcomer smartly asks, "You wanna be right or you wanna be happy?"
"Celeste and Jesse Forever" was inspired by the friendship between Ms. Jones and Will McCormack. They dated for three weeks in the late 1990s but realized they were better friends and writing partners and used their bond as the foundation for this comedy.
Ms. Jones, who often is cast as the girlfriend in movies such as "I Love You, Man," gets to turn on the drive here in a way that may remind you of a hard-charging, ambitious friend. Mr. Samberg is a laid-back man-child, the sort who pops up in the movies with regularity.
Elijah Wood turns up as Celeste's gay co-worker, Emma Roberts is Riley, a pop star client, and Chris Messina (most recently Paul Dano's brother in "Ruby Sparks") is a yoga classmate.
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger ("The Vicious Kind"), "Celeste and Jesse" feels a little padded by Riley's appearance and formulaic when Celeste tries to dive into the dating pool. The other problem is that Celeste and Jesse feel so right together that it's hard to see Jesse, especially, with another woman despite professions of love and other ties that bind.
Some of the lines have a welcome bite as when Riley accuses Celeste of "contempt prior to investigation. You think you're smarter than everybody. That is your dark little prison." Way to insult someone.
The story excels at depicting what happens when someone such as Celeste, who likes to be in charge, watches the world start to spin away without her. The R-rated comedy dramatizes heartache and the peril of taking someone or something for granted along with the power of choosing happiness for everyone in the end.
Opens today at AMC-Loews at the Waterfront and Manor in Squirrel Hill.