Mel Sees: Celeste and Jesse Forever
Think Blue Valentine but slightly less depressing. Slightly.
I say “slightly” because Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones are fantastic at being funny when they’re suppose to be, but what’s more is their ability to break your heart. The brief synopsis of “C&J” is Celeste and Jesse are best friends who have been married for 6 years, but now they’re separated, and they think they’re fine, but really they aren’t. Barrel of laughs, right? While the subject matter seems serious and depressing (it is), they approach it with an honesty and light-hearted manner without detracting from the real human emotions you’d expect in this situation. Anyone who is familiar with Samberg on SNL, his movies, or The Lonely Island can look forward to seeing his boyish charm and humor shine through. What impressed me the most was how normal he can be. He pulled back all his outlandish, bawdy comedy tricks and instead presented himself as a serious actor. I’m not saying to cast Samberg in a dramatic period piece. I’m saying if he continues on this path to make you laugh one minute and cry the next, then his leaving SNL to pursue other acting opportunities won’t be in vain. Jones, who is probably most recognizable from her role as Amy Poehler’s bestie Ann Perkins on “Parks & Recreation”, is an absolute dream. Not only did she co-write Celeste & Jesse with Will McCormack (hilarious supporting performance as Skillz), she acted her heart out. You fall in love with her so easily, and you just root for her the whole time, which is why when Celeste pretends to be ok in front of Jesse you just want to reach out and hug her. I love Rashida Jones, I always have, but now I’m IN love with her.
The movie, while entertaining, also presents a serious question: is being best friends enough? Of course we’d all like to say “yes”, unfortunately the well crafted script gives a convincing argument for “no”. Two people seem to belong together, but as Celeste suggests, if you don’t fight for it then it slips away. It’s easy to say that at the beginning of the film, Celeste has it all together. She is a successful trendforecaster (yes it’s a thing), she’s beautiful, funny, has a nice house, gay Elijah Wood is her friend and co-worker, and she seems to have a wonderful husband. Then, within 5 minutes of the opening scene you realize ***SPOILER ALERT*** that she and Jesse are already separated. Is it entirely Jesse’s fault? No. Sure he doesn’t have a job, and takes an overly relaxed approach to life, causing Celeste to be stressed and feel like she’s doing all the work, but… no wait. I don’t have a “but”. That’s my first problem. I think somewhere in there it is suggested that Celeste is basically a power whore, but I didn’t necessarily feel that way. Maybe I was biasedly blinded by my love for Jones, but I was Team Celeste. Shit happens, you think they’ll get back together, they meet other people, she goes down a dark, twisted stairwell of pain and drunkenness, yadda yadda yadda. Some of it is predictable, but that doesn’t detract from their fine performances. In fact, Jones’ portrayal as a woman scorned was refreshing. Yes, she is down in the dumps, but it was never a life-ending moment for her. There was even a dreaded wedding speech moment where you thought she was going to lose her shit and embarrass herself while toasting her friends, but instead it turned into a sweet, subtle apology to Jesse. I DON’T KNOW WHY. He’s the one who should be apologizing, but whatever. It was too good to argue with.
The other problem I had, but was a well developed problem, was how they graphed Celeste’s growth. Near the beginning of the film, she’s at the end of a long line of customers at a coffee shop (let’s assume Starbucks), and a guy who was 4th in line cuts to the front and orders coffee. From the back of the line she politely but directly tells him off, and I was proud of her. Like I wanted to stand up and be like “YEAH! Don’t take shit from anybody but still be respectable about it!” Then the movie happens. Then, at the end of the film, she’s at a gas station? Convenience store? whatever, not important, she’s walking to the cashier and a guy barges in from outside and just kind of cuts in front of her. She’s about tell him off, but instead says “nevermind” as if this was some big life changing moment. Like an “Aw she’s a changed woman” type of thing. I don’t want her to be a changed woman, that part of her that told off the coffee shop guy was incredible. Maybe she didn’t tell off gas station/convenience store guy because she realized he actually didn’t cut in front of her, he fairly beat her to the till. He thanks her, acknowledging that what he did was wrong and she was right, but it was cool of her to not lose her shit. Unenthusiastic yay. I mainly didn’t like this scene because it was a totally different situation from the one with the coffee guy, so comparing her reactions and thusly tracking her growth is unfair. However, I can see why they did it. In her not-so-awkward wedding speech/apology to Jesse, she says that in a relationship you don’t always have to be right, even if you are. That’s probably the clearest reasoning we get as to why her and Jesse’s relationship didn’t work out. Now, at the end of the movie, even though she’s right, she lets it slide. She takes Jesse’s laid back approach to life and chooses to pick her battles, which I can appreciate as a resolution.
Verdict: 4/5. Bravo performances. Andy Samberg can potentially be the next Paul Rudd, being capable of both humor and seriousness in his work. Rashida Jones is breathtaking and should be worshipped for her script writing and acting. The two of them seemed so natural on screen together that you hope they’re BFFs in real life. You also can’t help but feel that they were just being themselves, but perhaps that’s just an actor being a good actor. The supporting cast of Elijah Wood, Will McCormack, Eric Christian Olsen, Ari Graynor, Emma Roberts and Chris Messina are delightful. The soundtrack is amazing too, I’m hoping for that to be on iTunes soon. As a warning, you’ll probably leave the theatre with a mixed feeling of emptiness and happiness. It’s a strange feeling, but it’s worth it.
Ps. Lookout for a hilarious cameo by Kris Pino (spoiler alert: Chris Pine, who you won’t recognize unless you love Chris Pine as much as I do)