Celeste and Jesse Forever: Gender Teamwork

The marketers of Celeste and Jesse Forever had a difficult job on their hands. The task: selling a film that simultaneously opposes the romantic comedy formula, while also existing as a thoroughly accurate description of the genre. Celeste and Jesse are a mid-adult, kinda cool L.A. couple who are dealing with reality of their separation-which frankly, isn’t that harsh. For a soon-to-be divorced couple, they still hang out. All the time.

     C & J is love poem to the complexities of life. It acknowledges the hilarity in the painful steps of beginnings and endings. The characters are comprised of carefully crafted unique traits. As a result, writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormic’s solemn swear to tell the truth remains consistent throughout the film.

Much of the film’s uniqueness is attributed to the duality of their relationship. For McCormic, it was evident right from their working process:

“This was a total two-hander on every level. I sort of have a feminine side to me, and she sort of has a masculine side to her, so I felt like even in writing Jesse and Celeste it was 50/50, because I feel comfortable writing girls and I think she feels comfortable writing boys. It was very even.” (1)

Jones especially wanted to create a story that was different. C&J shows a side of women that are not often represented in mainstream romantic comedies: a woman with deep flaws. Not flaws that make the woman look cute, deep, or beautifully misunderstood, but a legitimate, gut-wrenching example of unattractiveness.

Think passing out on a pool float at 4:00 pm, at your best friend’s engagement party, with mayo smeared across your chin.

Jones, who plays Celeste in the film, says, “I think with Celeste, we wanted her descent to be ugly. I feel like a lot of times in romantic comedies, they’re losing their mind but still totally adorable.” (1) She goes on to tell The New York Times,

“Women have been interesting forever. I’ve had so many women come up to me and say they were being fully represented, that they’re complex, and it’s O.K. to be complex, and it’s O.K. to be emotional one moment and really pragmatic the next. We’re going through a major evolution, and men haven’t had the same evolution.” (2)

I think the film is saying many things, but they may not all be apparent on first viewing. It certainly entertains the thought that you might not be meant to be with your soulmate. Or maybe you are meant to be, but life just moves on or gets in the way.

Although, neither seem to be the point here. C&J is about the inevitable, about life moving forward. It is about no matter how extreme anything ever was, it will change, and good and bad things will replace it. Great things, if you let it.The film is a beautiful portrayal of the ever normal; the mundane in the biggest events of your life, and the universal in the smallest. That time you had a crying fight in the street. Or the time you desperately needed a hug and someone in a kid’s costume forced one upon you.

      Celeste and Jesse Forever is intelligent and disarming, heartaching and heartwarming. While it is hard to uncover what elements came from which writer, it is undeniable that this man/woman team created a universal story from unusual means.

  1. http://spinningplatters.com/2012/08/10/spinning-platters-interview-rashida-jones-and-will-mccormack-on-celeste-and-jesse-forever/
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/02/movies/rashida-jones-writes-a-new-part-for-herself.html?_r=0
  3. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/backstagepass/2012/08/interview-rashida-jones-and-will-mccormack-talk-celeste-and-jesse-forever-and-the-island-of-misfit-characters/

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