What Is and Cannot Be

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012). USA. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger. With Rashida Jones, Adam Samberg, and Elijah Wood.

Two poorly suited dating partners Rashida Jones and Will McCormack (not to be mistaken with the actor from Will & Grace) opted for friendship and collaborated on devising a screenplay about an unhappily-ever-after duo.  Hollywood views this approach as deadly as the Black Plague.  Unkind tremors of real life pulsate through the film laced with humorous moments.  There is no resounding joy, but a whiff of surviving day by day to whatever may come especially for Celeste (Rashida Jones).

There is a distinction between a best friend and an intimate partner emotionally speaking.  Celeste and Jesse had cruised along based upon synced humor and deep caring, yet diverged in ambitions and maturity.  Marrying your best pal is not discouraged, but when individuals do not grow together, then strife ensues.  Only in situations where there is no room for flexibility do people opt to catapult out of the rut.

Separated for 6 months, Celeste and Jesse continue living on the same property with Jesse occupying the separated bungalow studio as Celeste maintains a near seamless morning routine.  Part of this involves a matched heart with arms gesture that trumps a simple wave to each other and points to a hesitation and uncertainty about how to move forward.  Professional and capable, Celeste navigates her career with aplomb.  She relies upon coworker Scott (Elijah Wood) to pinpoint how Celeste ignores her deep feelings and falsely plays the agnostic participant.

Unbeknownst to Celeste is Jesse’s encounter with a different woman during the separation.  Jesse is actively dating while Celeste feigns indifference and scoffs at men’s advances.  During one night of disastrous IKEA assembly where Jesse reinterprets the construction, they fall into one another’s embrace.  Their reading about what occurs is sharply divergent and plunges a wider wedge between them.  Aftermath of which causes Celeste great anxiety now that she no longer has access to her best friend.  This denial and deprivation unravels Celeste’s emotional distance, and she appears to want to rekindle the relationship.  However, Jesse’s one night romp complicates this.

Celeste scrambles to combat her pain with dates too soon after Jesse’s revelation.  She falls into depressive episodes that most people can commiserate although Krieger establishes the camera lens to maximize the awkward humor.   Scenes of Celeste running blocked from the world with her music is particularly reminiscent of a presumed healthy reaction, yet this showcases how we merely run from the fear of dealing with implications and unsettling states.  The walls that Celeste possess shield vulnerable emotions that once unleashed turn her world topsy-turvy.  To be fair, Jesse also expresses skepticism about his new path and misses Celeste immensely.  Both sides are hurting.

What is beautiful about this film is how Celeste is cemented by her close female friends and colleagues.  Her whole life is not contingent on Jesse; however, Celeste’s emotional reconciliation with herself and the events are not resolved.  You can love someone deeply and vice-viscera.  Sometimes, the missing compatible parts override those truths, and the loss rings even more incisively.

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