by Gus Constantellis
“Celeste and Jesse Forever,” the first film written by actress Rashida Jones (“Parks and Recreation”), treads along so banally that its short length of 89 minutes feels extensive. It embraces the “quirkiness” of the indie genre so tightly that it almost chokes it to death.
The film tells the story of Celeste (played by Jones herself) and Jesse (Andy Samberg, “Saturday Night Live”), a couple who was married for six years, until they separated because of “constant fighting,” which we never actually get to see. What we do get to see is the aftermath, as Celeste and Jesse attempt to maintain a friendship while also seeing other people.
“Celeste” starts off well enough, chronicling the relationship of Celeste and Jesse through slow moving frames, backed up by a slow, mellow indie song. It follows suit with this generation’s mix of wacky, absurdist humor, and is actually very funny, until about twenty minutes in, when the film stops to a halt and immediately turns into a drab mess.
After these first twenty minutes, the film becomes an exercise in Celeste’s narcissism, as she sits around, complains, and drinks all day long. She wallows in her self-importance, and acts selfishly toward Jesse. Her character is so irritating and inconsistent that she destroys any hope the film had at maintaining stability.
The supporting characters don’t help the story either, as they are all two-dimensional stereotypes. Jesse’s best friend Skillz (Will McCormack) exists solely to make stoner jokes. Riley Banks (Emma Roberts) essentially plays a fictionalized version of Ke$ha. Scott (Elijah Wood), meanwhile, fills the role of the “snarky gay character.”
Eventually, it comes to a point where “Celeste” is merely a series of random, spontaneous events. Friendships begin without any sort of introduction. Relationships end without any sort of explanation. Characters act in certain ways simply because the script tells them to (like when Celeste suddenly turns into a pothead).
“Celeste and Jesse Forever” tries too hard to be the next great modern love story, but with such flat characters, an unfocused plot, and a terribly unmoving ending, it doesn’t nearly have the substance to accomplish such a feat.
Gus Constantellis is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.