Celeste and Jesse Forever’s Rashida Jones and Will McCormack take on RomComs, writing problems, and the tough relationships no one usually sees in the movies.
Friends become lovers, but can they become friends again? That’s the question posed by writing team Rashida Jones and Will McCormack. Rashida is the Celeste of Celeste and Jesse, and Andy Samberg plays her titular lifemate. They’re divorcees still living together until further drama tears them apart. The relationship depicted is oddly familiar, and smartly so.
As Jones describes, “We did the thing of being good clever thieves and stealing from other people’s lives as well as our own. But it wasn’t one particular relationship or one particular friend.
“It was an amalgam of what I saw happening a lot, which was this inability to let go of a person that you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with, but now it turns out that you may not be going to.”
And you love them, you don’t want to lose them, and you don’t want to lose them to somebody else. And you want them to be happy, and you don’t want them to grow without you.”
McCormick added, “It felt really real at our age. I know I was in a dysfunctional relationship with an ex. It was hard to sort out what we were, and if we were able to be friends or get back together.
It was sort of this ‘Relationship Purgatory’ that felt familiar to a lot of people our age.
When we wrote the script, it resonated with a lot of people and these very complicated, very real relationships with people they had dated. It was this world that they had been in. That was sort of the kernel of the idea: our own experience and other people we know in LA.”
Celeste is a wonderfully troubled character not unlike the kind of role we’ve seen Rashida play in Parks and Recreation. “Yes, we definitely wrote [the part] for me. It also helps that you’re working with your best friend because you could write something and say, ‘You know, it’d be great if she did this and this. Oh, I don’t do that. No, you totally do that. No, I don’t do that!’
Because you have someone that’s constantly checking you and can tell you things about yourself that would be interesting if magnified.
And actually it was better writing because I wrote to my limitations and to my strengths. It was actually easier.”
For McCormack, “It’s fun to build a part for someone you know so well. I mean, Celeste is different than Rashida, but it’s a more amplified cinematic version of some of her idiosyncrasies and characteristics and we should do that again sometime.”
“We should play brother and sister sometime because now we really look alike,” Rashida joked.
What breaks Celeste and Jesse from their post-marital bliss is, of course, is a terribly ruthless fight that leaves the two of them devastated. Rashida admitted, “Well honestly, we wanted to take it there. We wanted to do a movie that wasn’t going to fall in the same path. We didn’t want to do a movie where you knew what was coming at every corner.
“And we wanted to tell the story about heart break and losing somebody that you love. And the only way we knew how to do that was to go for it and have that fight where you say everything you’ve been holding back on for ten years. One of those scorched earth, middle of the streets fights that I think a lot of us have had.”
As McCormack recalled, “It was one of those moments, too, when you say the meanest, hardest things to people you might know and love the best, and you never know if you’re ever going to recover. But you guys seemed to have recovered. It was really fun to watch.
“We were in Hollywood, and it was really late, and there were grown men with booms and grips crying. It was so cool. It was so fun to watch.”
As first time writers, both dealt with writer’s dilemmas. “The [writing] process can be grueling and a grind, but it’s pretty satisfying to hold the thing in your hands after you’re done and then to hear other people interpret it and make it better is probably the most satisfying part of it.”
McCormack mused, “And now we’re getting offered all these big romantic comedies and I feel like we said everything that we wanted to say in this one. We’ll just take our time.”