Starring Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg. Written by Rashida Jones, Will McCormack. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger. 14A. 93 min. Opens Aug. 3.
Between this American indie and Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, the summer of 2012 has boasted an unusual abundance of movies targeted at a neglected demographic: hipsters who’ve already got one divorce under their belts. Obviously, this crowd has a certain aversion to conventional rom-coms, but they’re still hungry for the solace that movies like Celeste and Jesse Forever can deliver.
Played by Rashida Jones (who also co-wrote the script) and Andy Samberg, the characters in Celeste and Jesse Forever are high-school sweethearts whose six-year marriage is already ending when the story begins. However, their near-constant companionship and continued close proximity to each other—Jesse’s living in the studio behind the L.A. home they used to share—are sure signs that they’re not ready to move on.
The possibility of new romances soon jeopardizes their arrangement, though Celeste—a marketing exec who’s the obvious alpha in the relationship as well as the one who initiated the split—is understandably miffed when Jesse becomes the first to hook up. Celeste’s messy attempts to sort out her baggage become the film’s primary concern, with her personal woes being compounded by professional troubles caused by a new client, a Ke$ha–like pop starlet played to surly perfection by Emma Roberts.
Braving the emotional heavy weather that follows any breakup is clearly a big objective for Jones and co-writer Will McCormack (who also makes a memorable appearance as the couple’s pal and weed dealer). Yet it’s the breezier scenes that give the movie its vitality. In this regard, Celeste and Jesse Forever shares both its sensibility and its boho milieu with (500) Days of Summer and Beginners, two other recent films whose characters could be seen roaming through trendy L.A. hoods like Echo Park and Silver Lake. And while Celeste and Jesse’s individual quests to redefine themselves may feel overly familiar even to viewers who’ve never had to sign divorce papers, their story strikes an appealing balance of sadness, sweetness, and West Coast nonchalance.