Pro tip to Hollywood producers: If Rashida Jones walks into your office, greenlight whatever she's pitching.
How can you go wrong? She's Hollywood royalty, the daughter of music legend Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton ("The Mod Squad," "Twin Peaks"). She's beautiful, but in an accessible way. She's also incredibly funny, as demonstrated in TV ("Parks and Recreation") and movies ("I Love You, Man," "The Muppets").
And, with "Celeste & Jesse Forever," Jones proves herself a double threat as star and as co-writer of a smart and funny anti-romantic comedy.
When we meet Celeste (played by Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg), they come off as one of those too-cute-for-words couples who are always finishing each other's sentences and desserts. There's only one problem, as noted by their about-to-marry friends, Beth (Ari Graynor) and Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen): Celeste and Jesse are separated and getting a divorce.
Sure enough, the couple don't share the same bed anymore, with Jesse still living in the studio behind the house they once shared. Yet neither seems ready to move to a relationship with another person, even as the issues that drove them apart continue to fester. Then Jesse announces that he's about to be a father, with a woman he's just recently met, and Celeste goes into a tailspin.
As Celeste tries to cope, she finds advice in odd quarters: from her boss (Elijah Wood) at the PR firm where she's a trend predictor; from the self-absorbed reality-show star (Emma Roberts) who is her firm's latest client; and from a cute guy (Chris Messina) who chats her up after yoga class who confounds her with a simple question: "Would you rather be right? Or would you rather be happy?"
The movie feels right, with no wasted scenes in the script by Jones and Will McCormack (who plays Celeste and Jesse's pot-dealing friend Skillz). It also feels happy, as director Lee Toland Krieger (who directed the 2009 Sundance entry "The Vicious Kind") lets the laughs and emotions emerge in a breezy, unforced way.
At the center of it all is Jones' funny and charming performance as Celeste, who finds her romantic life and her sense of superiority crumbling around her. By writing a great role for herself, and then portraying that role with reckless abandon, Jones guarantees "Celeste and Jesse Forever" will stay in the memory if not forever, than at least for a long time.
'Celeste & Jesse Forever'
Rashida Jones writes a great character for herself, playing a woman dealing with life after marriage.
Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.
When • Opens Friday, Aug. 31.
Rating • R for language, sexual content and drug use.
Running time • 92 minutes.