I have long been both impressed and more than a bit suspicious of people who manage to stay friends with their exes. In my experience, many try and few succeed – and the two necessary ingredients to be one of the few is time and distance. Not that Celeste (Rashida Jones, who was also co-writer) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) were paying any attention to my sage advice when they decided to get divorced. Not least because they are fictional.
Celeste and Jesse’s relationship is established in the montage over the opening credits and they’ve broken up long before the first line of dialogue. They’re just not acting like it. Even if high-flying “trendspotter” Celeste had grown tired of artist Jesse’s apparent lack of motivation, they’re still best friends and happiest in each other’s company. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t conducive to moving on.
The breath of fresh air that blows through this rom-com (or should that be post-rom-com?) is that it does away with one of the big failings of the genre: the will they, won’t they? question, almost always answered with yes, of course they will, is neatly sidestepped. Here, Celeste and Jesse already have. The question that will keep you guessing right to the end, is will they again? And more importantly, should they? While I really wanted good things to happen to both Celeste and Jesse, I couldn’t decide whether a reconciliation was the good thing I wanted.
The film would have fallen flat without the brilliant chemistry that Jones and Samberg have onscreen but they have you rooting for them from scene one. They’re funny and charming, with dialogue that’s always pitch perfect and both are skilled physical comedians. While the supporting cast are all likeable, the central pair are definitely the stars, not even upstaged by Elijah Wood as Celeste’s business partner, who’s trying and failing to be her sassy gay friend. This should be a relief to Rashida Jones who was so fed up with always playing the best friend in films that she decided to write herself a lead role.
There are some flaws – the sideplot featuring Riley Banks, Celeste’s teen pop star client, is resolved in a bit too neat a fashion and their lifestyles are oh so glamorous all the time – but C+JF is both funny and romantic, which is what you want out of a romantic comedy and yet so rarely get.