“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. What? It’s Viktor Frankl…or maybe it was Biggie Smalls. I don’t know.”
The plot of half the average romantic comedies involve two best friends falling in love. There are entire Netflix queues devoted to such ideals as adolescent sweethearts who end up together at the end of a lifetime of trials and tribulations. And we all know “that couple” who found each other at a ridiculously young age and ever since has been the standard bearers for what a stable relationship should aspire to be.
Celeste and Jesse have been together for most of their lives. They fell in love in high school and every college memory involves them as a couple. Mutual friends and interests further make their lives completely and inextricably tied. They were that blissfully happy pair who rarely fought, but over the years their differences became greater. We know all of this by the end of the opening credits.
It is not until an early dinner scene that the current status of their relationship is revealed. Although they still share a car, say “I love you” and almost live together, Celeste and Jesse have been separated for six-months and are in the process of getting a divorce. This has allowed for the cessation of their more obvious quarrels as a larger emotional rift is created.
Celeste, played by Rashida Jones (who also co-wrote and championed this indie effort), is the co-founder of a successful trend forecasting company, POPform. She prides herself on her intellect and structures her life around her goals. This results in a slightly harsh demeanor accented by a fabulous wardrobe of black dresses and leather skirts, which appear more suited for NYC than LA. Her business partner, Scott, is played by Elijah Wood who essentially runs the business end of the company and serves as the ‘saucy gay friend’ who doesn’t quite know how to appropriately assert his sexuality.
Jesse is Celeste’s polar opposite. Played by Andy Samberg (the most well-known leg of the magical tripod that is Lonely Planet), Jesse is an artist who spends more time surfing and re-watching the Beijing Olympics weightlifting events than completing his artwork or looking for paying jobs. His ever-present wingman, and mutual friend of the couple, Skillz, portrayed by co-writer (and real-life ex/BFF of Jones) Will McCormack, comforts Jesse with marijuana and suggestions of the various ‘Bettys’ roaming their oceanside paradise.
C&J Forever evolves the love story of two best friends beyond the point that most plots call their “happy ending.” What happens when your best friend doesn’t want you anymore? How does life change when we grow up and relationships get messy?
The end of Celeste and Jesse’s relationship unravels as two of their best friends, Beth and Tucker (played by Ari Graynor and Eric Christian Olsen, respectively), prepare for their own marriage. This dichotomy provides plenty of humorous, but also poignant moments for both central characters as they celebrate another’s love while eschewing their own.
Both Jones and Samberg show an invaluable balance of comedy and grace. Jones provides pleasurable physical comedy as her restrained demeanor collapses. Samberg, so well known for SNL and various slap-happy films, provides considerable vulnerability and longing. Enjoyably, many of the comedic moments are shared between these two leads, resulting in an almost voyeuristic inclusion on their inside-jokes and greater understanding of the base of their relationship and their friendship.
Celeste and Jesse will always mean something to each other, be it friend, lover, ex-husband, or ex-wife. Our relationships define who we are. When these connections change, we must as well. Forever.
Production Notes: Directed by: Lee Toland Krieger; Produced by Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd; Written by Rashida Jones, Will McCormack; Starring Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts, Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen, Will McCormack, Chris Messina