The end of a relationship isn't always the burning wreckage that Hollywood likes to portray. Sure, that scenario lends itself to crucial narrative conflict and vicariously entertaining spite, but more often than not, when a romantic love dies, the entrenched bond remains. Navigating that conundrum is at the heart of Lee Toland Krieger's surprisingly touching comedy "Celeste and Jesse Forever," in which a divorcing couple, played with affectionate chemistry by Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg, must come to terms with the fact that they actually need to split up in order to get on with their lives.
An opening montage shorthands their life together, so that when we finally meet Celeste and Jesse, we're a little shocked to learn they're actually kaput. The problem appears to mostly be on Celeste's end, as the go-getting trends forecaster grew weary with jobless graphic artist Jesse's lack of ambition. A bit of a control freak, Celeste seems to relish the still-smitten Jesse's obvious dependence on her, should the time ever come when she wants to reconcile. But the universe has a predictably unpredictable way of undermining that kind of complacency, and when Jesse winds up being the first to move on, Celeste is devastated.
Samberg delivers a really good performance that calls for actual emoting rather than his usual insufferable mugging, but this is truly Jones' show. She co-wrote the knowing script with Will McCormack (he plays the wise, weed-dealing Skillz), and she's not afraid to depict Celeste sloshing around in hilariously drunken, sweatpantsed, trash-diving self-pity upon realizing that taking someone for granted is never a good idea. Jones could have done better by Emma Roberts' pop tart and Elijah Wood's gay friend (no one mentions their sexual preference in every sentence), but she makes Celeste's honest journey through the stages of loss both funny and heartbreaking.