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Category: Rashida Jones

Sundance: Rashida Jones does romantic dramedy in 'Celeste and Jesse Forever'

January 19, 2012 |  8:35 pm

Celeste and Jesse Forever

It may be easiest to describe “Celeste and Jesse Forever” in terms of what it might be but is not. Is it a broad, female-centric comedy à la “Bridesmaids”? Kind of, not quite. How about a tender breakup tale/love letter to Los Angeles' Los Feliz and Silver Lake neighborhoods that recalls “(500) Days of Summer”? Sort of, but not really.

Audiences will get their first idea of what “Celeste and Jesse Forever” really is when the film premieres Friday night at the Sundance Film Festival, where it has been marked by many as one of the hotter titles available for acquisition going into the fest.

Starring, co-written and executive produced by Rashida Jones from NBC's “Parks and Recreation,” the film follows a creative-class Angeleno couple on the cusp of divorce. Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) were high school sweethearts, and as much as they have grown up together, they now find they are growing apart but struggling to fully break from each other. (That Jesse is living in their back house probably doesn’t help.)

Directed by Lee Toland Krieger, whose caustic “The Vicious Kind” premiered at Sundance in 2009, “Celeste and Jesse” is neither a full-on comedy nor a total downer drama. Rather, the film looks to craft a delicate and difficult blend of genres, mixing laughs with a genuine emotional currency underlined by a vibrant sense of immediacy.

Photos: The scene at Sundance 2012

“We’re obsessed with ‘Broadcast News,’ ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ the things that did the impossible of striking a balance between humor and emotion,” said Jones while sitting with co-writer and fellow executive producer Will McCormack recently during a break from making finishing touches on the film.

“We wanted to allow the comedy to come out of a real place,” said McCormack, who also plays an unexpectedly wise pot dealer in the film. “All of the things we do in a breakup and how painful heartbreak is and how funny it can be in retrospect. I always think life is funny enough.”

The pair first met in the late ’90s after Jones made a film with McCormack’s sister, actress Mary McCormack; they dated for three weeks and have been friends ever since. “Celeste and Jesse” is the first finished screenplay by either; they wrote the film side by side on Jones’ couch, handing a laptop back and forth.

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Sundance: Tim & Eric, Rashida Jones and 4 other stories to watch

January 19, 2012 |  7:00 am

At Sundance 2012, "Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" and Rashida Jones' and Andy Samberg's "Celeste and Jesse Forever" are some of the movies generating buzz

The Sundance Film Festival that kicks off Thursday afternoon in Park City, Utah, will offer its share of celebrity sightings, glitz and mayhem (though somewhat less than it once did, as this astute essay from Salon's Andrew O'Hehir points out). But for film fans, the festival remains, as much as ever, a place where the biggest story lines and actors emerge -- basically, if it happens at the festival, it will happen in the wider world of cinema eight or 10 months from now.  So let us be your guide for these coming Sundance days. We'll start you off with six mini-trends we're keeping an eye on.

Red light, green light. Rodrigo Cortes had one of the most ballyhooed genre films at Sundance in recent years when "Buried," the Ryan Reynolds-starrer about a man trapped in a coffin, premiered there two years ago. Cortes is back with another conceptual horror movie, a supernatural thriller called "Red Lights." But will audiences get a chance to see it? Last time, Lionsgate paid a cool $3 million for "Buried" only to see it flop. We'll see if another buyer bites this time around. (It does star Robert DeNiro as a blind psychic, so ... you know.) Cortes isn't the only one with a genre title: The found-footage movie "V/H/S," from a host of young horror comers, and an intriguing film called "John Dies at the End" will try to spook the spirited post-midnight crowd.

Love is in the air (sort of). Sundance is known for its dark dramas, its heavy relationships, its ... light comedies? A panoply of sweet films, many of them centering on young love, or at least the struggle to maintain it, are landing at this year's festival. A small sampling includes the Rashida Jones-Andy Samberg romance-cum-breakup story "Celeste & Jesse Forever" (keep a count of how often it's compared to "(500) Days of Summer"), the high school tale "The First Time" and the wedding comedies "Bachelorette" and "Save the Date." Expect one or more to break out and form a critical part of the inevitable "Not Your Father's Sundance" story.

Everyday America. If the features are light, the documentaries are bleak, bleak and bleak. Rape in the military, hunger, AIDS, the war on drugs, the housing bust. Also, Detroit. The last few years the breakout docs have ranged from the wonky ("Waiting for Superman") to the experimental ("Exit Through the Gift Shop") to the poignant ("Being Elmo," "Buck"). But things will get downright gritty this year. For starters, Kirby Dick's story, "The Invisible War," examines the aforementioned military subject in a movie that's already earning raves. (Check back in this space shortly for Kenneth Turan's take on it; you can also read his shortlist of recommended films here.) 

Drama queens. Of course, it wouldn't be Sundance without a strong lineup of dramas, the genre that keeps on giving. Back in 2010, the lineup was particularly strong, with Winter's Bone" and "Blue Valentine" among the movies that premiered there. This year, keep an eye out for a story about a disabled man who hires a sex surrogate (Ben Lewin's "The Surrogate"); a drama about a man who takes up with a mysterious French prostitute ("Simon Killer"); a "Margin Call"-evoking financial drama (the Richard Gere-starring "Arbitrage"); the Melanie Lynskey-starring illicit romance ("Hello, I Must Be Going") and a film in which Paul Dano is a young rebel grappling with fatherhood ("For Ellen"). Good times.

Sales game. The average filmgoer doesn't pay much attention to how many available titles are bought for distribution at a given festival. But it's relevant just the same: The number directly affects how quickly films get out to your local multiplex. Last year, more than two dozen movies sold, but most of them didn't fare very well. That could put a damper on how many movies are bought this year -- though don't tell the sellers, who remain optimistic.

Two guys named Tim and Eric. They already have a huge following from their Adult Swim and various live and Web-related efforts. Can Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim make a go of it in the feature world too? They'll try with "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie," a fictional tale they wrote, directed and star in about their attempt to construct a movie, then a shopping mall. (Will Ferrell, who also produced 'Bachelorette," has a supporting part.) As if that isn't wacky enough, the comedic pair star in a movie called "The Comedy" that isn't a comedy -- it's a drama.


Sellers anticipate a bounty of deals

Sundance 2012: Films to see in Park City

Wingard, West headline new Bloody Disgusting film

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim in "Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie." Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg will get married and divorced (in the movies)

March 22, 2011 |  6:43 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg each get about one scene in the upcoming romantic comedy "Friends With Benefits." But they soon could be occupying the same movie for a lot longer, and in a somewhat more dramatic vein.

The "Parks and Recreation" star and the "Saturday Night Live" staple are set to costar in "Celeste and Jesse Forever," the long-gestating romantic dramedy that Jones has written with actor-writer Will McCormack.

A studio executive who was briefed on the project said Samberg was set to join Jones as the film's male lead. The actress confirmed the casting and said that the production has also brought on a director, Lee Toland Krieger, who helmed the festival drama "The Vicious Kind."

"Celeste & Jesse" tackles the story of a couple that's getting divorced but wants to remain friends -- a kind of inversion, perhaps, of the just-hooking-up subgenre of "Friends With Benefits" and "No Strings Attached."

"Our movie is about two people who love each other a ton but they don't know what to do with that love, and how do you let that person go," Jones said. "It's very different from: 'I like having sex with this person because I'm so modern but then, ooh, maybe I like them.' I'm less interested in that story." She added, "It's the version of 'When Harry Met Sally' 20 years later, or 'Blue Valentine.' It's really about how you break up with someone.'"

Samberg aims to shoot the movie ahead of "I Hate You, Dad," the Adam Sandler comedy he will make this summer. (Samberg and Jones, incidentally, each had parts in "I Love You, Man," playing brother and fiancée, respectively, to Paul Rudd's friend-challenged lead.)

Financing has come together for "Celeste & Jesse," which previously had an unusual spell of bad luck: It was set up at 20th Century Fox label Fox Atomic before that label was closed down. Overture Films later bought it, only to be shuttered by parent company Starz Media. The veteran producers behind "Memento" and"Prime" are producing.

Jones, who's starring in the current indie relationship drama"Monogamy" and appears in upcoming comedies including "The Muppets" and "The Big Year," said she thinks "Celeste & Jesse" offers an antidote to the spate of recent comedies looking at romance from a male point of view.

"It's hard to find female leads that are flawed and interesting and dynamic. We wanted to write something that was in the vein of Judd Apatow -- you talk like you actually talk with your friends -- but with ladies," Jones said. "I want to do that and not just be someone's girlfriend or wife. I want to be the one to go on the journey."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Rashida Jones. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times.


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