Not all love stories are romances, a point thoughtfully explored in "Celeste and Jesse Forever."
Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samburg) are perfect for each other as illustrated in the three-minute opening montage that shows them growing from teens in puppy love to adults in wedded bliss.
Cut to a car interior where they're singing along to a song and playing an interesting "off-color" game with a tube of lip gloss. Meeting friends for dinner, they are so super cute together - leaning in close, laughing, finishing each other's sentences, talking in foreign accents - that it's all too much.
Then their friends scream at them to stop it! - but not for the reason you might think. To say much more would ruin a truly brilliant bit of writing that jettisons "Celeste and Jesse" out of cute romantic comedy territory and into a contemplative look at modern relationships.
Celeste is an author and trend forecaster who is out promoting her new book, "Shitegeist." Jessie is a talented graphic artist doing freelance work, but not much else. She's talkative and assertive; he's quiet and unmotivated. They are the essence of the romantic notion that opposites attract and they are clearly devoted to each other. But there are cracks.
He is immature ("He doesn't have a checking account or dress shoes," Celeste complains to a friend) and doesn't appear to be in a hurry to change. That's why Jesse is living alone in his art studio behind their home, where he's more apt to be watching (and crying at) a video of the Beijing Olympics than drawing. She is tightly wound and controlling in a deceptively nice way.
As they navigate their "separation," neither wants to cut the ties to each other and the true dynamics of the relationship unfold. Celeste complains Jesse is immature, but she treats him like a child. "I'm proud of you. You're gonna do great," she tells Jesse before a date with the Yogurt Girl.
When he comes to her with life-altering news that will rock their world (a plot line that feels a bit too contrived), her surprising response is the motherly "what do you need me to do," instead of asking him what he plans to do.
As Celeste and Jesse work out their evolving relationship, the film explores whether two people who are perfect together are necessarily right for each other. There is a natural, easy rapport between Jones and Samburg that is instantly likable and makes you root for them to find happiness, whatever "forever" may mean in terms of their relationship.
Jones wrote the script with Will McCormack (who plays a pot-smoking friend in the film) and the story is more than a little inspired by their real-life relationship that included a short romance followed by the realization that they were indeed perfect for each other - perfect best friends, that is.
How much of the film is drawn from real life isn't clear. But I'll give Jones and McCormack credit for creating something fresh in a genre that relies too much on the old standbys and look forward to seeing more from them.
CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER
Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samburg, Emma Roberts, Will McCormack, Elijah Wood
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Running time: 91 minutes
Rating: R for drug use, sexual content and language.
The Lowdown: A separated couple tries to maintain their friendship while pursuing new relationships.