I had an art film phase. I devoured Chinese, Japanese, French, South American, Spanish, etc. etc. movies like they were being passed around like gourmet food. I was the pretentious teenager who believed a well-made film with certain filters, a crushing story, and a nationally or internationally relevant topic would change the world. I scoffed as my parents wondered how I could keep watching these movies and still feel okay after.
Then I grew older. Not much wiser, either. But time moved me into important decisions that had to be made. I was exposed to more realities that my parents themselves faced, alongside the weakening economy. I went to work through a crappy public transportation system and always had a street kid or adult passing or sitting by during the commute. I went to events and met some of the country’s elite. I overheard one of them complaining about how she didn’t get her ice cream delivered on time, while I had the knowledge that there was a family living in a box above the market in the next street. I finally understood the powerlessness we all hold when we see these problems–these issues that never get solved or hardly move on–while members of the middle class also have to deal with inflation, rising gas prices, and the instability of a circus government. No wonder my parents didn’t like seeing art films: it was a reminder of the realities they couldn’t solve while they were still trying to solve problems of their own.
But even us young adults still need a film that will softly remind us of our lives. We don’t know what we’re doing 80% of the time, so it won’t hurt to come across a story that will nudge us the right way. The conundrum is particularly confusing when it comes to letting people go and understanding our reasons for doing so. Movies like “Celeste & Jesse Forever” are a gem: it’s indie without being pretentiously artsy because it delivers a tender realistic story.
Celeste and Jesse are two individuals legally separated after a six-year marriage, but have been best friends since childhood. Thus they face the problem of having to let go of each other officially, but aren’t sure how to keep the friendship that started and came with the partnership. It’s a problem many couples face post-break up and writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack handle how Celeste has to let go realistically but subtly: at first she busies herself with work and says she’s okay with Jesse moving on. But eventually when the truth sinks in…
I won’t spoil things from here. Given my er, recent situation, I just really appreciated how on point each scene and conversation was without being too dramatic or depressing. The story was paced right, slowly and then suddenly fast but back to the quiet, just like normal life. The scenes weren’t very boring either, despite the parallels they had with how normal friends and exes talk about navigating relationships. Rashida Jones and her co-writer Will McCormack do an amazing job of presenting friendships and relationships, the choices we make, heartbreak that comes with those choices, and the difficulty of moving past decisions we can’t take back.
Before I saw the film, there was a scene in the trailer where Paul (played by Chris Messina) says to Celeste: “Do you wanna be right or do you wanna be happy?” It’s a question we all ask ourselves, whether we’re figuring out a relationship or deciding on where to go next with our career. It’s a question that also sums up the meaning we try to find in life. I asked a similar question once as well and I remember the answer: “It’s not a matter of whether you did the right thing. Time will tell and from there you’ll understand why you had to make that decision.”
It’s easy to hear and say that. Life, however, is the best teacher to show you how that unfolds. This movie manages to render that painful but enlightening lesson.
Photos from The Huffington Post‘s “Rashida Jones on ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’: I Wanted to Play Somebody…Less Likeable’