Rashida Jones forever
Photo by Picture Perfect; Rex Features
Celeste and Jesse Forever is coming to disc this week. This makes Rashida Jones happy, because people are finally going to see her movie.
“People wait for the DVD,” she says. “That’s why we’re on the phone right now.”
Jones is in Los Angeles, working her day job on Parks and Recreation, where she plays Ann Perkins, best pal and confidante of Amy Poehler’s can-do councilwoman Leslie Knope. And if that’s all you’ve seen her do, you’ll be amazed at the depths she shows in Celeste and Jesse Forever.
As a newly divorced woman who isn’t nearly as over her ex (Andy Samberg) as she thinks she is, Jones gives a complex and deeply moving performance – which is all the more impressive because she wrote the film herself with her friend and co-star Will McCormack.
“Will and I tried to write to my strengths, which inherently are my weaknesses,” she laughs. “We tried to magnify the worst parts of me, because I knew that I could play them. I can be controlling sometimes. I can think I’m right a lot. I can be imperious, I can be self-righteous. I can be overly opinionated and underinformed. So we tried to write to those strengths-slash-weaknesses, and I tried to challenge myself.”
“The downward spiral that I go on [in the film] is challenging in itself,” she says. “It’s hard to break all the way down and make that feel honest, so I wanted to do something that I’d never had a chance to do before. I’d never been a position where I’ve carried a film before – been, like, the emotional guide through the film. And I’ve never had to go from A to Z in terms of emotional range, so I wanted to do that too.”
Snapped up by Sony Pictures Classics after a strong premiere at the 2012 Sundance, Celeste and Jesse Forever was positioned as summer counterprogramming, but failed to find its audience on the big screen.
“The people who related to it related to it really strongly, and the people who didn’t just didn’t,” Jones laughs. “Because it’s not quite a comedy and it’s not quite a drama, it sort of got stuck in the middle. But that being said, I feel like the movie coming out [at all], because it took so long to make, that was a success in itself.”
She’s not bitter about the situation, mind you. She knows that’s just the way it works nowadays.
“Ten years ago, if a great film was made, it would find you,” she says. “And now that’s not true. You see films and you’re like, ‘How did I never hear about this, and why aren’t more people talking about it?’ It’s not the same any more; it’s not quite as much of a meritocracy as it used to be.”
But there’s a bright side.
“The nice thing is that smart people have liked the movie,” she says. “And that feels really good. And that’s all you can do. I realized that early on in this process; not everybody’s gonna like everything, and you have to find your audience. It seemed to me that the people who liked this movie were in their thirties and smart and successful, and had been through something like this – had had a relationship like this.”
The arc of Celeste and Jesse – best pals who become lovers and eventually marry, only to divorce but still try to stay friends, exemplifies a certain type of relationship that no longer works in the modern age, Jones says.
“If it were 50 years ago and you grew up in a small town,” Jones explains, “you would marry that person and you would have kids with them. And you might kind of hate each other after ten years, and you might stay together or you might not.
“But now we have so much choice that you don’t have to stay with that person,” she continues. “When you change, you can [now] leave a relationship that doesn’t reflect who you are any more – but what do you do with that person who was such a huge part of defining who you became? It’s like, what do you do with a computer that you’ve had for 10 years and it’s no longer relevant, but it was such a big part of who you are? Do you just throw it out? That’s weird.”
And now that Celeste and Jesse Forever is boxed up and on the shelves, does Jones want to put herself through all that again? Is she ready to write another movie?
There’s no hesitation at all: “Yeah! It’s just – there’s this weird thing where you spend all your creative currency on your first project, because you’ve been planning on doing this thing for so long that you put it all [in] there. So now it’s just about going back to a place where I feel inspired, and trying to figure out what we wanna do next, you know?”
Celeste and Jesse Forever is available on Blu-ray and DVD on February 5th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.