The title and cutesy-pie Lily Allen-scored opening credits promise whimsical hipster romcom hell, but this anti-romance (and showcase for co-writer and star Rashida Jones) is a spikier, more unpredictable beast. True, its characters are perky, white, well-to-do LA media snobs with nice cars and fairly insignificant problems, but viewers who manage to get past that will find a brisk, insightful comedy with a brace of likeable central performances.
Jones plays Celeste, whose divorce from college sweetheart Jesse (Andy Samberg) is taking longer than it should: they’re still best friends and next door neighbours, and no one knows why they broke up in the first place. But when a one-night stand has an unexpected outcome, Jesse pulls away, leaving Celeste bereft and soul-searching.
There are frustrating things about ‘Celeste and Jesse’: the presence of tired romcom staples like the gay best friend (Elijah Wood), the obnoxious alpha-male sidekick (co-writer Will McCormack) and the wedding speech meltdown leaves the script feeling a little schizophrenic: is it a mainstream Hollywood slushfest, or a knowing comment on same? There’s also a whiff of smugness, particularly in the early scenes.
But these drawbacks are easily overwhelmed by the sheer likeability of the characters. Keeping the focus on Jones pays huge dividends: she’s relatable and sympathetic, even when acting like a snob. Whenever the film threatens to drift into lazy schmaltz she hauls it back pretty much single handed, ensuring that this potentially aggravating comedy remains sweet, smart and very enjoyable.