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Geekscape Goes to Sundance 2012: Celeste and Jesse Forever by Anna Agadjanyan

Celeste and Jesse Forever, is a movie that had been set-up to go about a half dozen times according to the filmmakers.  Lucky, for us, the audience, the 7th time was a charm and the green light was on.  Well written by the very talented and witty Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, it a completely non-formulaic, unexpected take on friendship, marriage, love, happiness and the apparent inability to reconcile them. The result is an incredibly refreshing story that taps into the nuanced truth about the lack of clear-cut answers when it comes to life in general.  This idea that life is going to go one way, and it completely doesn’t, is relatable to many, often figuring out what is actually going on is the hardest part.  In fact, the process of the discovery of the storyline was such a good experience, that I do not want to give away much else from the plot.

Besides co-writing the story, Jones shines as a leading lady, commanding attention on screen.  Her portrayal of the often nuanced emotions of Celeste are phenomenal, and it would not be surprising to see her as a leading lady in a feature film again very soon.  Andy Samberg, the SNL favorite, leaves many of his goofy antics aside and delivers as a Jesse, Celeste’s love of her life.  Samberg commented that he had to consciously work to curb his funny side in order to deliver a balanced end product – he would worry on set “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything funny in this scene…”.  Alas, the result is a movie that is both funny and sad at times, with just the right amount of each. Jones and Samberg have incredible chemistry, and you really immerse yourselves into their lives.  Interestingly, Jones first tapped Samberg as a writer.  He was a friend and she wanted him to take a look at the script.  He loved it, and despite not having done anything like this part before, he saw himself as Jesse.  Though the cast largely stayed on-script, Samberg did admittedly add a few zingy jokes during the shoot.

Elijah Wood does a great job in his surprising appearance in a small supporting role as Celeste’s business partner and friend.  McCormack is fantastic in his small part and sprinkles tidbits of clever gems throughout the film, such as: “I was thinking of opening a meth lab. … Or teach pre-school, I always wanted to do that.”  In addition Emma Roberts cameos as an aspiring pop star.  These supporting parts are played well and make the film well rounded on all levels.

You would not notice that the film was shot in 22 days on a very small budget.  It has all the elements of a well-financed feature.  The director, Lee Toland Krieger (his 2nd Sundance film), the cast and the writers all did a phenomenal job collaborating and pouring all of themselves into this film.  Their camaraderie really shows in the end product.  Interestingly, Krieger commented that they were still working on editing the film one week ago, and that the version we saw is likely not the final iteration of the movie – it watched however, as a completely polished film that is ready to go in its current version.  I would hate to categorize this film single handedly as a romantic comedy, more of a dramatic romantic comedy.  Celeste and Jesse forever will certainly appeal to a broad audience, male and female alike, so do give it a thought when it comes out near you, which it un-doubtfully will.

For Star Trek fans:  In a scene where the guys are watching a cheerleaders practice there is a random 4th friend that no one knows. It’s a “did you bring this guy?”… “I thought you knew him” kind of thing.  Well, “that guy” is actually a special Chris Pine cameo.  Rashida Jones asked him the day before to stop by set if he had free time, and they put him in the movie.

Posted  Mon 23rd Jan 2012 Modified  Wed 30th Oct 2013

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