The rom-com classic When Harry Met Sally asked whether men can be just friends with women they find attractive.
Celeste and Jesse Forever, out tomorrow on Blu-ray and DVD, spins that question on its ear. Can a freshly divorced couple continue being best friends while dating other people?
Star and co-writer Rashida Jones asks some thoroughly modern questions about marriage, and her unvarnished performance bullies past some hopelessly clunky subplots.
Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) look like the cutest couple ever. They're actually separated, but they sure don't act like it. They live on the same property, go out on double dates and spend more time with each other than most happily married couples.
Get a room, you two.
They were best friends before they got married. Why should impending divorce change that? Their post-couple bliss ends, predictably, when Jesse starts dating other people. She initiated the break-up after losing patience with his slacker tendencies. Now that he's on the market, Celeste isn't quite sure she made the right relationship call.
Jones, best known for comedic roles (Parks and Recreation and I Love You, Man), shows considerable range in a role meant to portray her as stiff and self-righteous. Jones manages to keep us on her side, a not so small feat given the complexities of her character's arc and Samberg's aw, shucks charisma.
Too bad we don't see more of Chris Messina, the unofficial hardest working man in indie cinema, who plays a man who might make Celeste forget all about her soon-to-be ex. Far more satisfying is how the film doesn't depict the other women in Jesse's life in cold, one-dimensional fashion.
Director Lee Toland Krieger (who also gave us the terrific The Vicious Kind) switches to hand-held cameras during some of the more tense sequences, a gambit which pays off due to its restraint and care.
The screenplay tries on a few rom-com giggles for size, but the story's beauty lies in its simplicity. How close is any couple to a breakup, and why do some people who appear perfect for each other end up battling it out in divorce court?
Celeste and Jesse Forever stumbles over some manufactured plot bumps meant to speed the maturation process, and a subplot involving one of Celeste's celebrity clients deserved to be reduced to the deleted scenes file.
Speaking of Blu-ray extras, the disk comes with the official deleted scenes, two separate commentary tracks, a "making of" featurette and some red carpet footage.
"I completely underestimated how serious it was when I got on the set," says Samberg, typically cast in slapstick roles like That's My Boy, commenting on the film's dark tone.
Some of the deleted scenes included here involve sweat stains, neck hair and a bearded, blustery Chris Pine, moments that hardly fit the sober emotional epiphanies in the film. Although it must be humbling for a star of Pine's caliber to find himself relegated to the Blu-ray goody bag.