“We can’t do this anymore,” one of the exasperated friends of Celeste and Jesse says early in the new comedy “Celeste and Jesse Forever” and it’s not for the reason you would suspect about the titular couple who seem to have only grown more comfortable in each other’s company in the six months since plotting their divorce.
As Jesse notes, except for an “excruciating five weeks in space camp,” the two have never been apart and won’t let their recent “separation” mean anything in literally with Jesse still sleeping in the back studio of their shared home in Silverlake. Introduced through one of the more crisply conveyed and conceived opening credits sequences of recent memory (perfectly set to Lily Allen’s “Dreams”), things nonetheless get quite messy for the longtime couple the more they talk to outside observers of their relationship, Jesse’s flagging ambitions and Celeste’s overly controlling nature becoming more apparent than it likely did when they decided to break up.
Although the pair appear to be limiting their future by staying in such close quarters, one can’t say the same for the film itself which joins the ever-growing subgenre of breakup comedies that romanticize only the notion that some people simply aren’t meant to be together. The bluish-grey tint of David Lanzenberg’s cinematography in “Celeste and Jesse” denotes a more serious tone than the last Los Angeles love story gone wrong in “(500) Days of Summer,” but then again, like much of the story penned by Jones and Will McCormack, looks can be deceiving.
Twists on the traditional formula are abound in the film, beginning with the hire of director Lee Toland Krieger, who no doubt was brought in to give the film some of the raw, emotional edges he previously did for the rough family drama “The Vicious Kind.” Scenes often run on beyond their expected length to either allow the more comic elements of Jones and McCormick’s script to break through rather than be force fed or linger on Jones and Samberg in their more vulnerable moments. As a result, it’s a film that doesn’t exactly sit comfortably in either realm, forging its own turn towards uncharted territory as Celeste and Jesse make theirs by showing the couple’s difficult transition in moving on not only to new partners, but a wholly reconfigured relationship to each other from the one they’ve had before.
The desire to be different from other films of the same ilk appears to be inherent right down to the core of “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” creating some unexplored avenues more effective than others. When Elijah Wood and Emma Roberts show up as Celeste’s gay business partner and a bratty pop star client, respectively, both play to their stereotypes for laughs and then reveal they suffer from not playing up to them, simultaneously reminding us that they’re multidimensional characters and yet very much contrived. Likewise, the timeline of the film’s events seem to unfold naturally until they begin bunching up near the end, the loose, limber structure of the first two-thirds giving in to the need for a definitive conclusion.
Still, thanks to the sheer likeability of the entire cast, most specifically Samberg and Jones, the latter of whom indeed has written a dynamic part for herself that seems to reflect her true personality which we’ve only seen in shades before, the film feels as if it’s captured something very real even if it’s done so in fairly superficial way.