Perhaps tired and frustrated with playing second banana in big screen comedies such as I Love You, Man and The Big Year, Rashida Jones went off and penned her own starring role in Celeste and Jesse Forever. Written with Will McCormack, the film takes a fresh approach to the romantic comedy - albeit through a fairly conventional genre framework - by fast-forwarding to the end of a relationship.
From the outset the film presents the titular Celeste and Jesse (Jones and Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg) as an item. They play games in the car, sing twee Lilly Allen songs, discuss Jesse's lack of employment and have dinner with friends Beth (Ari Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen). Before long we learn that they're separated and about to get divorced. They grew up together as best friends, and despite the end of their romantic union, they're still very much entangled in each other's lives. So much so in fact that Jesse still lives in his workshop at their marital home.
In truth she has outgrown him, but their seemingly unbreakable bond means the pair both begin to question why they're apart.
Celeste works as a trend forecaster for a successful Los Angeles PR firm and Jesse, despite being an out-of-work artist, leads a content and happy life.
This cosy setup threatens to tip Celeste and Jesse Forever into the realm of Middle Class Problems: The Movie, so it's to Jones and Samberg's credit that they're able to create characters with charm and likeability. There's a palpable chemistry between the pair, too, meaning that the twists and turns in their relationship are always believable.
Jones, McCormack and director Lee Toland Krieger strive hard to puncture rom-com clichés, yet there are still plenty of genre holdovers that prevent Celeste and Jesse from hoisting itself up to the level of a 500 Days of Summer or Juno. Elijah Wood makes a brief appearance as the gay best friend, Graynor and Olsen alternate between dispensing wisecracks and sage advice, and there's an uncomfortable wedding speech from Jones thrown in for good measure.
Celeste and Jesse Forever falls somewhere between being a Sundance-style indie and a mainstream commercial crowd-pleaser. It never commits to either, and as a result too often feels like it's going through the motions to hit signposted genre points. Ultimately, though, this is an enjoyable and breezy enough watch thanks to its appealing lead duo.