The Sundance Film Festival is full of emotional relationship dramadies, but so many of them feel like writers and directors working out their emotional issues from their own relationships.  By using their movies as a cathartic opportunity to whine about their breakups, they miss the chance to connect with audiences and speak to the human condition and shared experiences.  But that is not the case with Lee Toland Krieger’s Celeste and Jesse Forever.  The film, which stars The Offices Rashida Jones and SNL’s Andy Samberg, is not about the pain of ending a long, substantial relationship, but about the way we’re forced to move on and grow as a result.  Check out the rest of the review, after the jump…

UPDATE: Watch Mali Elfman and Brendan Walsh review Celeste and Jesse Forever.

Celeste And Jesse Forever

  • Director: Lee Toland-Krieger
  • Screenwriters: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack
  • Players: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Will McCormack, Emma Roberts, Elijah Wood, Chris Messina

Synopsis:

Celeste and Jesse are the perfect couple, except for one thing: They’re divorced.  Months after their break-up, they’re still best friends and living with each other.  But when they realize that it’s time to move on, their lives are thrown into upheaval, and the two must reevaluate the way they view each other and themselves.

The Good:

  • Chemistry - Samberg and Jones are adorable together.  Their comedic backgrounds allow for a quick repartee, and a natural back and forth that makes it easy to believe them as more than a couple, but great friends.  But their dramatic scenes are especially strong.  The way they argue never feels like a forced shouting match, but as if the two are more disappointed in what they find in the circumstance, resulting in real heartbreak.  Rashida Jones has displayed broad emotional range in her TV career, but with the scope of a whole feature film  her to breathe as an actress, she drives the films story and emotions with her performance.
  • Samberg?! – I normally can’t stand Andy Samberg.  I don’t like his smug persona or his over the top, clumsy acting style.  However, in this film, he is positively disarming.  He is rarely playing for laughs, and turns in a shockingly natural performance.  His dramatic scenes are reserved and quiet, accenting the internal confusion towards the state his character suddenly finds himself in.
  • Cinematography - Director of photography David Lanzenberg shot the film on the Arri Alexa, which is a high latitude digital format, allowing for great detail in high and low light situations (think Drive), and it is employed nicely.  Backlit, early morning shots are evenly shaded, and dark nighttime shots are full of rich facial details.  The filmmakers really took advantage of the capabilities of their camera system.

The Bad:

  • Subplots - There are a couple of subplots that are in fact essential to the story, but in the moment feel superfluous or unresolved.  Particularly when Jones’ brand designer character tries to get back on her feet in the dating world, and when she establishes a new friendship with a combative, pop star client.  Though ultimately relevant to the story, leading Jones’ character to where she needs to be, they feel a little clunky in the moment.

Overall:

Celeste and Jesse Forever ultimately stands as a testament to the benchmark relationships that define who we become as adults.  Most people seem to have one especially substantial relationship before finding their true loves, and this is a story about that and the process of moving on.  It has great performances from talented comedic actors (Elijah Wood’s performance as Jones’ gay assistant is especially well tempered and fun), and stands apart from the generic romantic comedies churned out by studios, as well as distinguishes itself from the pretentious, overwrought relationship dramas commonly attributed to Sundance.

Watch Mali Elfman and Brendan Walsh review Celeste and Jesse Forever:

Rating: 7.5/10