Celeste & Jesse ForeverMovies
(MA, 92 minutes.)
Opens Thursday, Cinema Nova.
The best thing about Celeste & Jesse Forever is, it's a romantic comedy that's only partially interested in either romance or comedy.
Set in Los Angeles, this well-structured story dips into the after-life of a divorcing couple, Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg), who remain best friends and virtual neighbours, sharing their favourite comic routines but not a bed. It's an emotional stand-off posing as a support structure.
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger, the movie strongly sketches the dynamic between the pair, including the way in which career-minded Celeste has grown tired of Jesse's diffident work habits. ''The father of my child will have a car,'' she tells a friend, but the film is perceptive about how her salary provides a degree of control that Celeste enjoys, and while Celeste advises Jesse to move on, she's upset when he belatedly does.
Both the leads have comedic reputations - Jones was in the The Office remake and now Parks and Recreation, while Samberg is a successful graduate of the American sketch show Saturday Night Live - and it's easy for them to riff off each other.
The plot sometimes indulges them with amusing set-pieces, whether it's Celeste's dating misadventures or the binge she goes on at a friend's engagement party when it's clear that Jesse has a new life.
Celeste & Jesse Forever was written by Jones and Will McCormack, who plays a genial marijuana dealer.
Jones' authentic, quietly compelling performance is surprising. Celeste navigates deep psychological faultlines, including Jesse fathering a child with another, and Jones captures the harsh, slow impact of self-doubt's onset.
The film has a feel for middle-class LA, with yoga classes and vegan restaurants, and where a Facebook page can start a guilt spiral. Krieger captures muted day tones and bright neon nights, emphasising the characters' choices.
Unlike When Harry Met Sally, this isn't a debate about the relationships men and women can truly have, but it manages to balance honesty and the genre's staples. Celeste gives a speech at a wedding but it's more regretful than triumphant, and Jones displays the needed emotional conflict so freely, she's a cure for the Kate Hudson infestation.