For Rashida Jones, "Celeste and Jesse Forever" not only marks her screenwriting debut but showcases her remarkable range. The compelling dramedy, opening Friday, is based on her own experiences with heartbreak and self-reflection. Known for her deadpan role on the NBC comedy "Parks and Recreation," her latest performance allowed her to break new ground as an actress.
"I am generally cast as the dependable, affable, loving, friend-wife-girlfriend," Jones told the New York Times. In a separate interview with the Daily News, she explained that her character, Celeste, "is controlling, judgmental, self-righteous, obsessed with being right.
"There are some elements of her that are me, but hopefully I've softened a little as I've gotten older."
The film centers on a pair of married high school sweethearts, Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg), on the cusp of divorce. Though the two have called it quits romantically, they remain best friends who continue to spend most of their time together.
We felt like there was this real kind of thing in the zeitgeist with our friends, where they were having these relationships, where they were their first adult relationships, out of high school or college relationships, and it feels like the person you're going to be with forever," Jones continued. "And, it turns out it's not forever, and you change and grow, and you don't realize you're going to change and grow."
Will McCormack, her writing partner whom she dated briefly, said that his relationship with Jones is very close to the storyline.
"We didn't work out as a couple," McCormack told Living Cinema. "But we knew that we had to be in each other's lives. So we weren't sure what that was, but when we met there was something just electric between us... It ended up, I think, the right relationship, as writing partners and best friends. I'm glad that it took that turn."
"Celeste and Jesse's" relatable premise will no doubt resonate with male and female audiences alike-a rare feat for a rom-com. Its unique storyline and audience-friendly cast earned it a slot at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Following its festival debut, the film was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics. The deal came as a relief after the film's first two distributers, Fox Atomic and Overture Films, folded within months of each other. The film was made in just 23 days on a budget of just $840,000, after Jones turned down a major studio deal that would permit her role to be recast with another actress.
"We did get an offer from a studio at a certain point - for them to reserve the right to cast somebody else if they felt like I wasn't financially viable," she told the NY Times.
Knowing the rarity of a character like Celeste, the actress rejected their offer.
"I felt like this was the only opportunity I had to play this kind of part, a character that's maybe less than likable."