Sometimes your best friend just isn’t your soul mate. Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) discovered that the hard way when their marriage began to go south, but they’ve had a rough time accepting it. How, after all, can you give up on someone who shares your infantile love of exaggerated German accents and pretending to jerk off tiny bottles of fluid? Written by Jones and her ex-boyfriend Will McCormack, Celeste and Jesse Forever explores a relatable ordeal: trying to stay close with a former lover, even when doing so traps you in a relationship purgatory. The film begins with a clever bait and switch, palling around with the two lovebirds as they make cute in public, before revealing – through an outburst from their exasperated friends – that they’ve been separated for months.
Just as she does on TV’s Parks and Recreation, Jones mines humiliation and emotional duress for big laughs. The actress is well matched by Samberg, dialing back his SNL-honed goofiness to play an overgrown adolescent in the throes of a sea change. The problem with Celeste and Jesse Forever is that it inserts these two believable characters – and their credible conflict – into a rather lazy and conventional romantic comedy. While Celeste feels real, the life around her often does not. (She’s a professional trend spotter – a very movie-ish profession that allows for a very movie-ish subplot involving Emma Roberts’s teenage pop star.) Jesse, meanwhile, escapes post-breakup paralysis by way of a speedy (and offscreen) trial of responsibility. Is it possible to remain friends with your ex? Beats us. We’re still wondering whether it’s possible to answer that question in a cliché-ridden date movie. A. A. Dowd