HOAI-TRAN BUI / THE EAGLE
It’s tough playing the best friend. People often take you for granted, even though you consistently keep up with comedy greats like Amy Poehler or hold your own in an award-winning film like “The Social Network.”
Rashida Jones (“The Muppets”) is used to being typecast as the supporting friend or loving wife. But in “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” she finally gets a chance to show she’s more than just a bit player.
“I definitely feel lucky to have found a way to be pigeonholed, because that kind of means you’ve made it,” Jones said in an interview with The Eagle at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown. “But I’m definitely in danger of becoming wallpaper.”
Her role as the title character Celeste is anything but. Despite the double-billing of her and Andy Samberg (“That’s My Boy”) as Jesse, the movie is all about Celeste and the ups and downs of a pivotal time in her life. In the film, Celeste and Jesse are a divorcing couple, but they are also best friends. As their friends grow frustrated with Celeste and Jesse’s attempts to maintain their non-romance, perfectionist Celeste finds her career and her love life go in a direction she does not expect or want.
“We want the movie to be funny and we want people to enjoy it, but we want to be really honest about heartbreak,” co-writer and actor Will McCormack (“Boiler Room”) said. “And we tried to be as nuanced and as realistic as we could on a subject that’s hard for people. Break-ups are hard, you think your whole life is going to go one way and it doesn’t, and that’s hard to accept.”
Jones co-wrote the script with McCormack and based much of the story on their relationship. They initially wrote it to be more central to Celeste’s story, but liked the relationship between Celeste and Jesse so much that they further built Jesse into the script.
“Andy and I being friends I think added a lot of value to the movie and to our chemistry in the movie,” Jones said. “It’s so fun to watch Andy because he’s never gotten to do anything like this before. He’s always had it in him, and he kept saying me ‘I can do this, I can do this,’ and he was right. And he did it in front of us, and he broke my heart.”
It’s easy to relegate this movie to romantic comedy status, but it goes beyond the genre. Celeste is one of those rare female leads who doesn’t fall into the traps of stereotypical heroine cliches à la Katherine Heigl. She’s a realistic character who doesn’t have to be tamed by a man, or lose her powerful position in order to be made sympathetic.
“Will very generously wrote with me this part, and it’s different, where I get to be kind of unlikable and real,” Jones said.
“It’s hard though, I think for women, because if you don’t write it yourself, often I think women do get relegated to the role of the wife or the girlfriend,” McCormack said. “Celeste is usually the part for the guy, or had been in the past.”
It was a refreshing change of pace for Jones, who shines in a film that is part of an ongoing wave of smart and funny films written for women, by women.
“It’s frustrating that there has to be renaissance, but now it’s acceptable you can write your own materials as a woman—you can be the guy part and people are like, ‘Oh my god, it’s a new trend!’ Jones said.
The inverted romantic comedy is certainly a new trend in theaters today, but you won’t see Jones or McCormack approaching another one for a long time. However, they do plan to continue working together for the foreseeable future. Considering the quality of their latest film, let’s hope it’s forever.
“Celeste and Jesse Forever” comes out in theaters August 10.