“Celeste and Jesse Forever” offers realistic take on tired, rom-com genre

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Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy

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“I like to call it a comedy about a broken heart,” said Will McCormack of the new comedy “Celeste and Jesse Forever” — summer’s freshest independent film on what it’s like to be in love and the manifestations after it’s all over.  It questions what it’s like to have your best friend be your ex-husband, your roommate, and a dead weight. “Celeste and Jesse Forever” has a raw emotional engagement but still allows for moments of comic relief. Samberg’s performance stretches his wings to develop a character that was easy to identify with while still maintaining his sense of humor. Rashida Jones (Celeste) opposite Andy Samberg (Jesse) are favorite names in comedy taking on a big question so many couples ask after breaking up: Can you still be friends with your ex?

Following suite with 2009’s “(500) Days of Summer,” “Celeste and Jesse Forever”  offers a great soundtrack, is set around iconic Los Angeles landmarks and finishes with an ending that isn’t tied up in a bow. Jones and Samberg go through the push and pull of trying to reconcile deep-rooted emotion and rational feelings that don’t lead to a clear solution. Celeste is a financially successful woman, who counters Jesse, a guy without a job and without any sense of responsibility. Neither one is ready to let go, but they find holding on is impossible when having to move on.

Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, the screenwriters of the film, are also actors and great friends who  have embarked on writing together for the first time. In an interview with The Daily Californian, when asked about how they feel in regard to being placed within the romantic comedy genre Jones says, “We wanted to contribute to the genre by doing something slightly different by inverting a convention or putting a twist on something, surprising you with a character you thought was going to be one way because you’re so used to the cliché and then turns out to be another. So we did our best to freshen something we love and respect, but has been told many times, and very well at that.”

“Celeste and Jesse Forever”  is filled with great visual moments that spark emotional triggers for anyone who has been in love. They capture the heartbreak of disappointment, the reverie of looking back on the past with nostalgia more than clarity, and the ultimate reality that there is no way to do it ‘right.’

The film’s focus on breakups suggests something of a universal dilemma in relationships. “Celeste and Jesse” prove there is no formula, or prescription, that when done correctly, will produce the least painful and most desirable result. The characters suffer the same turmoil of doing what’s best for themselves versus what is best for their relationship. When asked about the responsibility this film has to its audience in regards to it relating to so many people in the same situation, and the gravity of how it’s going to translate into their lives based on the characters’ decisions, both Jones and McCormack give insight into what their characters mean to each other, and in large part, what their relationship says to everyone in the same situation.

“I think everyone is going to be responsible for getting through it themselves. There is no other way. We just tried to be as honest as we could about the heartbreak. And you know how there are three rules to getting over heartbreak, right? But no one ever knows what they are. Everyone has to find three rules that they can survive in,” McCormack said. To each their own, and to Celeste and Jesse, their journey speaks to so many, as do their decisions.

Jones responded, “I think that we’re not saying there is a right way to do it. We’re actually saying there is no right way to do it. In that way, I think it is responsible, because we don’t know, and we’re not pretending to know.”

There is an undercurrent of earnestness that is layered underneath the film that is as much real as it is funny. McCormack summed up the movie best when he said, “I guess we’re trying to say, there will be feelings. And if you try and avoid them, there will be more. You have to approach them, and you have to face them. And I think Celeste is so smart, she’s like ‘I’m not really doing the whole feeling thing. I’m going to go around that’ and she can’t. Everyone pays a heartbreak bill, and her bill was a lot bigger because she tried to avoid it.”