On paper, and on screen, Rashida Jones is the definition of “celebrity I want to be like.” As the daughter of famed record producer Quincy Jones and David Lynch muse Peggy Lipton, Jones is a Harvard graduate and a regular on Amy Poehler’s ingenious TV show Parks and Recreation. She co-starred alongside Jason Segel and Paul Rudd in the now iconic bro comedy I Love You, Man, and this year she plays the lead in a movie she co-wrote with actor friend Will McCormack, Celeste and Jesse Forever, a true tour de force dramedy for someone who has made her name by playing the sidekick or girlfriend.
Starring Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones, Celeste and Jesse Forever tells the story of two best friends in the middle of their divorce proceedings. Buddies since college, Celeste and Jesse have clearly fallen out of being married, but they haven’t really fallen out of love. Their odd relationship is that of trying to let go off each other, while simultaneously remaining together as friends.
Samberg, known for his slapstick comedy on SNL, is a revelation as the floundering and unemployed Jesse. Similarly, Jones’s performance is applause-worthy, as her character goes from hilariously witty and comical to extremely depressed and dramatic. It’s ironic that Celeste wins her bread by forecasting trends, but she can’t see how the whole “still friends” scenario will be misunderstood. The chemistry between Samberg and Jones is potent, in the funny parts as well as in the more dramatic scenes (look out for a recurring joke Celeste and Jesse make of pretending to make sharp objects ejaculate).
The film also co-stars Emma Roberts as an obvious reference to Ke$ha, a trashy pop star wearing fishnet clothes for whom Celeste is forced to come up with a logo. Elijah Wood plays Celeste’s gay friend and boss, and co-writer Will McCormack is the comic relief as Skillz, the ex-couple’s drug dealer friend who wants to be a schoolteacher. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger (The Vicious Kind), Celeste and Jesse Forever is a rare romantic gem with its heart in its gut. It sticks with you. ■
Celeste and Jesse Forever opens Aug. 31