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Tagline: A Loved Story.

Cool Dialogue: Riley to Celeste: “You think you’re smarter than everybody. And that is your dark little prison.” (Looks at Celeste’s shoes) “Nice shoes.”

Preshow Entertainment: CBS MORNING NEWS from August 1987


Celeste and Jesse are silly Gen Y versions of Annie and Alvy’s intelligentsia couple from ANNIE HALL. They’re a goofy and playful pair, perfect for each other. They spend every day laughing at their antics - from reading menus in German accents to ejaculating a tube of lip balm. So why’re they getting a divorce? Because they get along better as friends than husband and wife. Though they see nothing wrong with this, their friends do. But Jesse counters to them, “You don’t have to choose sides! It’s the perfect break-up!” It’s been six months since announcing their divorce, and they’ve never had more fun. And it’s annoying not just to their friends, but to us too. No one should be that freakin’ happy. It’s unnatural.


Andy Samberg plays Jesse, perhaps (it’s hard to say) the less mature of the two. Like his BROOKLYN NINE-NINE’s Jake Peralta (I’m not familiar with his SNL work, but I’ll go out on a limb and say…“and like many of his SNL characters”), Jesse is silly. He’s not thinking of the future – says Celeste, he “doesn’t have a checking account or dress shoes. The father of my children will have a car.” We all know a Jesse – the guy who’s here not to simply amuse others, but to amuse himself. I fear myself a bit Jesse-y. Anyway…

Celeste, played by the less schticky Rashida Jones (who scripted, with Will McCormack), is the author of the new book, SHITEGEIST, about the dwindling creativity in culture, as if we need to read a book to know about that.

Jesse now lives in the guest house because, though the characters don’t realize it, he is now a guest in Celeste’s life. And when they say goodnight, it comes with an “I love you.”


This is the story of a love that works on paper, but not in real life. “Love” and “In Love” - two opposing forces that make things complicated, which is a fine thesis for a romantic comedy. Is Celeste jealous when Jesse tells her of an upcoming date with Yogurt Girl? And, a la ANNIE HALL, does she ask Jesse to come over to help with the Gen Y version of killing a spider – assembling a piece of Ikea furniture? Is that why she really called him?

Like so many romcoms, Celeste goes on a series of bad dates. Meanwhile, Jesse hooks up with a girl from his recent past, Veronica. And that’s when an interesting thing happens. Jesse works to become more mature. But that’s a thing you can't just do, it's something that comes naturally...and slowly. He does try, taking steps like going vegan, as if that’d do it. Meanwhile, Celeste remains in such deep denial about her emotional attachment to Jesse that even her date can see it. This is a real thing in life. You don’t need writing classes to know that stories that come from things that can happen in real life are more relatable. Even their fighting comes from truth, as the invisible things surface; Celeste’s resentment that she paid for everything while supporting Jesse, and Jesse’s jealousy over Celeste’s career. Here’s another thing you may be able to relate to. One late night, while in the same room, tipsy, they have a moment; a kiss, and they both know it’s not a good idea. You can see them thinking, wrestling with their impulses from their brains, from their hearts and certainly from elsewhere. It takes a long time for them to decide to go for it or not, and we’re there with them, understanding that feeling of it being simultaneously right and wrong.


And I have to say, as pesky as Celeste and Jesse can get, they are twice as adorable. They look like a real couple. They act like a real couple. And if they were in the room with you, I bet they’d smell like a real couple, whatever that means. Yes, somehow, and I don’t know how, the physics works. Jones looks like a girl and Samberg looks like a boy. I mean to say, an average girl and boy (soon they may graduate to woman and man). It’s all so… believable. Heightened, but believable, all because of the real world things they do. When she’s at a party, Celeste checks her face in the reflection of an ice bucket. Or the way she tosses her sunglasses off as if they were on fire when she realizes that her badmouthing of the person she is calling has been accidentally recorded on their voicemail. Of course, there are less subtle moments, like when Celeste uses her new friend/pothead/supplier Skillz’s stupid long bong. It looks like she’s playing a didgeridoo. Another broad scene has Jesse and Veronica catching Celeste red-handed inside their garbage container (she was curious). Sure, it’s a Romantic Comedy requisite, done in a million ways in half a million movies, but we laugh at this because we care about who she is, and what she’s going through (she also eyeballs Jesse’s Facebook page….go ahead…cast the first stone).

Elijah Wood
The supporting cast is wonderful. Elijah Wood plays the Romcom Gay Co-worker. He’s good, but man, it’s so in-your-face, what between his dapper vest and his dialogue (after saying something wildly inappropriate, he actually follows up with: “Sorry. I was trying to be your saucy gay friend.”). Emma Roberts plays Riley Banks, a Britney pop tart that Celeste’s company is now repping. And guess what? Roberts is good too. Other characters are peppered in, many showing up as Celeste’s misfire dates; the guy in her yoga class (an extremely funny turn for Chris Messina), sensitive folkie hipster (akin to ANNIE HALL’S “Touch my heart…with your foot.”) Rupert (Rafi Gavron), whack job Nick (Matthew Del Negro) and Max (Rich Sommer), the guy who knows Celeste isn’t ready to date.

There is such a fantastic moment in this movie, which I’m going to try to not give away. It’s when a character is so far down they have nowhere else to go, and as they walk away, heartbroken from what their life has become, something funny looms ahead…I mean, physically funny - a sight gag. It could have been played for laughs. It should have been played for laughs. And you think it will be. But there’s a stunning reversal that turned this potentially silly moment into a bucket of treacle.

Director Lee Toland Krieger does a very good job both technically and performance-wise, considering his scant credits (he’d only made two under the radar films before this). The DVD commentary with Krieger (or is it Toland Krieger?), Jones and McCormack (my law firm!) is a gabfest where every shot, scene, actor, light, wardrobe piece is the best shot, scene, actor, light and wardrobe piece in the movie. And telling us that grips and wardrobe were crying during an emotional scene smells of hyperbole. It’s like they made THE LEGO MOVIE - everything is awesome. A second commentary finds Jones and Samberg interacting the same way as Celeste and Jesse. They hardly talk about the movie at all. They kibitz and say the word “dope” a lot.


Don’t let this blip of a movie fool you. It’s funny, and at times, it’s really funny. And unlike the characters, the movie is put together well. I liked the cinéma vérité when it’s just the two of them, and the extreme silence when Celeste is by herself, thinking. Effective. Fellow SNL alumnus (with Samberg, not me), Jones has comedic chops, but also, and more importantly, she knows how to hold back when she needs to. Samberg is this generation’s Chris Elliot; the lovable, even though he can be annoying, buffoon (see his BROOKLYN NINE-NINE series. No, I mean it, see it. It’s funny.). Even he himself acknowledges - “It was a weird decision for me to actively pursue a movie that wasn’t just super-goofy.”

CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER (2012) reminded me of Joan Micklin Silver’s overlooked 1979 film CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER. Both low concept romantic comedies featuring “real” people. Both have characters that find it impossible to let go of each other, to the point where you want to shout, “What don’t you guys understand?!?” And the answer? Their feelings. We don’t always understand our feelings. And although the ending gives us hope for Celeste’s future, you won’t hear Carly Simon belting out a rousing anthem of empowerment.

Preshow Entertainment: CBS MORNING NEWS from August 1987

Attention old people! You know how you used to tape things on VHS? And when the show was over, it would keep on taping if you didn’t set the timer? That’s probably how I got this – a newscast from 1987. And it was fascinating. An amazing time capsule from a forgotten era…which many of us have lived in.

  • The first story was about a possible cure for AIDS…the first test of a vaccine on humans. The anchors were Faith Daniels and Harry Smith.
  • Mom Madonna Kennedy hangs on for dear life as her husband tries to drive off with their one-year-old. For thirty minutes with speeds up to 80mph, he took alleys, roads and even the 405, which probably slowed him down. I just found the story online: http://go.shr.lc/SFBLYk
  • There was also a story on Northwest flight 255, which crashed out of Detroit…and onto a street. All but one passenger, a 4-year-old girl, died.
  • Commercials included a Supercolor antenna from Radio Shack for $21.99 that’s easy to install (they show dad on the roof, and then watching the football game). I had taped this in NYC, so we got some local ads like Kitchen Beautiful, the Atrium Restaurant (two blocks south of the World Trade Center), and Caesar’s Bay Bazaar, all complete with NY accents.

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