Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) remain the best of friends, even in the midst of a divorce; to be specific, they spend nearly every day hanging out together and he still lives in her guest house. Their engaged pals (Ari Graynor and Eric Christian Olsen) are more bothered by their cavalier behavior in the face of their separation than Celeste and Jesse are. But all it takes is one night of shared IKEA frustration and uncorked wine for the duo to realize that ending their relationship was indeed the right move, and so they part ways to bittersweet results.
Celeste’s line of work, as a sort of trend-predictor, has made her fearful of the commercialized and conventional, so it’s hardly a stretch that a divorce without separation seems ideal to her (meanwhile, she compulsively pushes her new novel, “Shitegeist,” in every bookstore she enters). Jesse likes the idea because he’s essentially a slacker, and seriously, what sounds better to him than living and working with your best friend while being free to also see other people? One night of drunken backsliding brings the weight of the world down on their idyllic proposal, though, while a different night between Jesse and another woman prompts Celeste to rebound while he has to rise to the occasion of sudden fatherhood.
Whether a matter of Jones serving as co-writer or a decision made in the editing room, the 89-minute end result distinctly emphasizes Celeste’s post-split growth and doubts more than Jesse’s, but Jones as actress is up to the task. She’s the conventional control freak with a career in the realm of marketing who needs to loosen up, but in her first leading role, she goes for something more fragile and bittersweet than whatever a Katherine Heigl type might have brought to the table. The chemistry between her and Samberg is potent – they get along so well that they can’t imagine being with anyone else, but they’re also inhibitors for one another’s maturation – and the 'SNL' vet handles his grace notes deftly. However, it’s her performance that proves more winning through break-ups and meltdowns, from bong hits to bear hugs. Frumpy and neurotic suit her persona, as already proven through her TV work, but Jones openly invites bigger and better things with her well-tuned turn here.
"Celeste and Jesse Forever" ends on a reasonably realistic note, neither betraying the ironic implications of its title nor the sensitivity of its characters. Hell, even their immature mini-masturbation antics have become endearing by that point. (Just trust us on that one.) Once we’ve been around Celeste and Jesse long enough, we don’t want to split with them either, but at least they have a good run for our sake. [B]