It seems like you can boil romantic comedies down into two distinct categories. First, there is the wildly exaggerated and romantically super-charged type (The Proposal, The Wedding Planner, He’s Just not that in to You). Then, there is the down-to-earth, subtle, more realistic type (When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall, Love Actually). Both of these styles of “Rom-Com” can be tremendously successful or abysmally awful. Celeste and Jesse Forever can be described as a decent stab at the second type or a failure at the first.
Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg play Celeste and Jesse, a cute, happy, seemingly perfect couple with one surprising blemish, they are about to be divorced. The reason for their decision to separate remains somewhat unclear as we are introduced to them six months into their post-separation, pre-divorce limbo period. It seems Celeste is convinced that Jessie, while a great guy, lacks any form of motivation to be the husband she feels she deserves. This ambiguity about why they are breaking up allows the film to explore the minds of the characters as they struggle with the decision to either try again or be the first to move on. Both are determined to not hurt each other, but find that this is impossible as they exist in this touchy gray area of their relationship.
Writer and star, Rashida Jones deserves some credit for attempting to breathe life into a genre that has been, for the most part, rather weak as of late. Celeste and Jessie works pretty well when we are following the couple’s lives as they try to understand if and/or how they are supposed to love each other; these scenes are clever, cute, funny, and emotionally dramatic at times. That strength is tossed away when the film shifts focus towards Celeste’s silly rivalry with Riley Banks (Emma Roberts), a Ke$ha-like pop star at her media consulting firm. It is here that Celeste and Jessie Forever tries to tip-toe unsuccessfully into the other sillier type of romantic comedy with clichés abound like the gay friend, going on bad dates, and the perfect guy who’s right under her nose. Unfortunately, all this transition does is make the audience feel a bit manipulated and uneasy. In the end, Celeste and Jessie Forever feels a bit uneven. The film does make us care about these characters and there is a resolution that is somewhat satisfying. Emma Roberts’ vapid Riley Banks mentions in the film, “It’s about being who you are…unless who you are sucks.” Celeste and Jessie tries so hard not to suck that it loses what it could have been. C+