London Film Festival Review – Celeste and Jessie Forever
Celeste and Jessie Forever has been making it’s way around film festivals around the world. It’s about relationships in today’s modern 30 somethings. It starts unconventionally for a drama-dy about relationships, beginning as a couple are ending their marriage of six years. These about-to-be-divorcees aren’t the cliché bickering married couple. Instead, the young childless couple were childhood sweethearts who have drifted apart in terms of aspiration but are still best friends. The pair don’t seem to be able to move on, but they don’t want to be together.
Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) met in high school, married young and are growing apart. Now thirty, Celeste is the driven owner of her own media consulting firm, Jesse is once again unemployed and in no particular rush to do anything with his life. Celeste is convinced that divorcing Jesse is the right thing to do — she is on her way up, he is on his way nowhere, and if they do it now instead of later, they can remain supportive friends. Jesse passively accepts this transition into friendship, even though he is still in love with her. As the reality of their separation sets in, Celeste slowly and painfully realizes she has been cavalier about their relationship, and her decision, which once seemed mature and progressive, now seems impulsive and selfish. But her timing with Jesse is less than fortuitous. While navigating the turbulent changes in their lives and in their hearts, these two learn that in order to truly love someone, you may have to let them go.
As Jessie moves on to a new relationship with an ex-one night stand, Celeste finds dating more difficult. The rest of the story is about how they cope with their issues following the end of their relationship.
It might not be the thrill-fest some people expect from films these days, there are no explosions and no cgi, but this heartfelt LA indie shows you a point of view of relationships that are never covered on the big screen. From start to finish we’re shown the story of how people cope with the end of a relationship and, refreshingly, unlike the usual rom-com, ends how you wouldn’t expect a film to finish. Most of the characters are not made into stereotypes with the exception of a male model. The young popstrel bimbo Riley (Emma Roberts) is given a brain and a heart, the gay business partner Scott (Elijah Wood) is unsure how to express his sexual preference in a socially recognised manner, Paul (Chris Messina), the sleaze from yoga class turns out to be caring and understanding and the “other woman” Veronica (Rebecca Dayan) is not an evil husband stealer and is even likeable
Celeste, the lead in this film is the performance to watch. The audiences enjoyment of the film hinges on wether or not you relate to her and her circumstances. Most women around their 30’s will probably relate to her. She’s not without flaws, she’s cynical, ambitious, insecure, dismissive of people and outspoken. Despite her negative character traits, she’s genuine, funny and someone who you’d probably hang out with. And even if you don’t like her, she’s a well written and developed three dimensional character.
Director Lee Toland Krieger works with co-writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack and the talented cast to build empathy and portray emotions that are intense and real as well as laugh out loud comedic moments. The comedy is sometimes overblown but helps to alleviate the sadness of the piece, which at times feel frighteningly real. The humour includes some cute moments between Jessie and Celeste and of course with bad dating sequences, some red flag moments.
It’s not to everyone’s taste but Celeste and Jessie Forever is the perfect antidote to all those patronising chick flicks being touted as something you should be watching. It doesn’t endeavor to paint a perfect world of happy endings and soul mates. It doesn’t tell women lies about how happy ever after should be, which is ultimately admirable. Instead, it’s a beautifully acted and moving story told with sincerity and simple but incredibly effective talent.
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