CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER is well underway before it becomes clear that it begins six months after the breakup of its titular characters, played by Rashida Jones (who co-wrote the screenplay) and Andy Samberg. After a succinct opening-credit montage of the rise and fall of their marriage (they married young, and she dumped him when her professional ambitions put too much distance between their lifestyles), we're shunted into Celeste and Jesse's world of impressively annoying inside jokes. They make heart shapes at each other with their hands by way of greeting; they speak to each other in fake German accents; they masturbate ChapStick tubes. It's only when a close friend explodes in exasperation that we learn they've been separated for six months, even though Jesse still lives in the studio behind their house. Clearly, things are about to get complicated.
Although Celeste is shooting for romantic comedy, the laughs are inconsistent—and not nearly as impressive as the romantic side of the equation. It's a transparently personal film in which the screenwriters (Jones, partnered with Will McCormack, who also manages to breathe life into the film's lazily imagined pot dealer) truly seem to take to heart the advice "write what you know" and Celeste flexes more genuine emotional muscle than the genre typically gets to see. It may be imperfect, but it's honest.
For romcom first timers, the story's rambling plot—new romantic prospects for each of its leads, a lot of emotional processing, alternately realistic and cartoonish debauchery—is exceptionally good at balancing the where-is-this-going lurch of real life with Hollywood-friendly storytelling. For all of its saccharine stabs at humor, Celeste's ability to relate to a still-underserved audience of smart young professional women (this film has been compared, astutely, I think, to a woman's High Fidelity) ultimately outweighs its faults, poising Jones as an actress and a writer to watch.