'Celeste & Jesse Forever' sweet and heartfelt

Love burns fierce and bright but can flicker and die in an instant.

The eponymous married couple in Lee Toland Krieger’s gently paced comedy have been separated for six months but still live in each other’s pockets.

This physical closeness causes friction with friends and family. They can’t understand why two people who are heading for divorce are unwilling to move on.

Thus husband and wife must either stoke the embers of romance, re-igniting the desire that first drew them together, or admit defeat.

‘Celeste & Jesse Forever’ is set long after most romantic comedies end, at the point where the lead protagonists have taken off their rose-tinted glasses and seen each other’s foibles and insecurities close up.

A sweet montage of Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) madly in love opens the film, culminating with her walking away at a party.

She runs a successful business with her gay friend Scott (Elijah Wood) analysing trends and advising clients how to woo print and online media.

Celeste has her finger on the pulse of current fashions but is ill-equipped to see what has been staring her in the face for months: that her relationship with Jesse has reached a point of no return.

He lives in a studio at the rear of the house, so they see each other every morning and still make each other laugh with childish private jokes.

“Do you think it’s weird that we hang out all the time?” Celeste asks Jesse.

“No,” he smiles, “you’re my best friend.”

To encourage Celeste and Jesse to find happiness elsewhere, friends suggest they dip their toes back in the dating pool.

So Jesse enjoys dinner with Veronica (Rebecca Dayan) while Celeste succumbs to the bullish advances of Paul (Chris Messina) from her yoga class.

Potential romance with other people forces the couple to contemplate if divorce is truly what they want.

Meanwhile, Celeste must eat generous helpings of humble pie when she mocks teen pop sensation Riley (Emma Roberts) during a televised interview, and discovers she and Scott have been hired to manage the starlet’s rising media profile. Awkward.

Co-written by actors Jones and Will McCormack, ‘Celeste & Jesse Forever’ is sweet and heartfelt, blessed with a winning screen rapport between the attractive leads.

Sharp dialogue and colourful characterisation make up for occasional mawkishness and the predictability of the narrative, spiced with gross-out humour including a messy interlude with a kinky photographer.

Roberts and Wood are wasted in thankless supporting roles, while Dayan and Messina are given too little screen time to challenge our love for Celeste and Jesse as a double-act.

Refreshingly, the script doesn’t take the easy and sentimental way out, and attempts something slightly more sophisticated and realistic as a final flourish.

Star Rating: 3/5

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