Celeste & Jesse Forever

This is a colossally crazed film about love and all of its wild permutations.

Celeste & Jesse ForeverCeleste & Jesse Forever is a magical film about love falling short of perfection. The movie begins with our two loveable stars alienating the crap out of their closest friends as they continue to socialize despite the fact that they have been separated for six months. What in the hell is wrong with these two?

While they remain best friends, they are also seeking a divorce. Though we all learned from the insipidly moronic Love Story (1970) that, “love means never having to say you’re sorry”, it’s not enough for Celeste and Jesse to keep their marriage together.

At a certain level it is not hard to understand, as Celeste supports the two of them through her job as a business trend spotter. Jesse, on the other hand, does not have a bank account, much less a car. While he allegedly is pursuing some type of artistic career, there is precious little evidence that he is working very hard to achieve that goal.

What makes this film so special is a spectacular performance by Ms. Rashida Jones, not to mention a surprising one by Adam Sandberg. Ms. Jones is phenomenal as a bright young woman who masks her calmness behind a significant amount of alcohol and pot. (She also co-wrote the film’s screenplay.) She wants to move on and yet can’t leave, and she is caught in a wicked vice that threatens to pull her apart.

Mr. Sandberg is a complete delight, here playing a decent young man more confused than centered. Leaving Jesse he soon finds himself with a Belgian immigrant (Rebecca Dayan) who is expecting their child after a previous one-night stand, and Celeste’s bitter prediction that unhappiness awaits him seems all too prescient.

Quite frankly, Celeste & Jesse Forever is a far more poignant analysis of human relationships than the earlier film released this year, Friends With Kids. While the latter had its moments, it basically painted an ugly picture of disaster waiting on any marital horizon involving children.

Celeste & Jesse Forever is much more honest, dealing with intelligent people in a relationship that they lack the capacity to end. Nearly everyone has experienced the agony of such a personal crisis, and it leaves our friends here staggering as they try to do the right thing.

I should note that Elijah Wood plays a small role as Celeste’s supervisor, a man who is simply trying to give her decent advice. While she listens, she really never hears. Their brief moments together are quite fun, and it adds to the beauty of the film.

In addition, Emma Roberts is as provocative here as she was in It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010). A young singer as naive as talented, the bond formed between her and Celeste is as moving as it is captivating.

Clearly, life is a journey for most of us where we await that moment when love comes visiting in the night like some dark specter with a nasty sense of humor. As for me, Mo and I will be married 25 years next year (or 25 years “more or less” in Mo’s caustic words!), and I still remember the moment where we knew that there was a cosmic reaction between the two of us.

On the second day of a death penalty seminar, I showed up about 15 minutes late, suffering from a colossally horrible hangover from spending the prior evening with four wretched friends from out-of-town. Shortly after my arrival, Mo came stumbling in, collapsing in the seat next to me suffering from the same horrible malady. I don’t know if love truly is a “many splendored thing”, but it certainly is when a massive hangover is involved.

It’s truly difficult to embrace the ending of this film without having a slight tear in your eye. In Tina Turner’s classic song, “What’s Love Got to Do With It” (1993), she described it “as a second hand emotion”. While it remains the Fountain of Youth that Ponce DeLeon sought in the early 16th century, Celeste finally discovered that love is not for quitters.