Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read.
Today: A scene-by-scene breakdown of the script for the movie Celeste & Jesse Forever.
Here is my take on this exercise from a previous series of posts — How To Read A Screenplay:
After a first pass, it’s time to crack open the script for a deeper analysis and you can do that by creating a scene-by-scene breakdown. It is precisely what it sounds like: A list of all the scenes in the script accompanied by a brief description of the events that transpire.
For purposes of this exercise, I have a slightly different take on scene. Here I am looking not just for individual scenes per se, but a scene or set of scenes that comprise one event or a continuous piece of action. Admittedly this is subjective and there is no right or wrong, the point is simply to break down the script into a series of parts which you then can use dig into the script’s structure and themes.
The value of this exercise:
* We pare down the story to its most constituent parts: Scenes.
* By doing this, we consciously explore the structure of the narrative.
* A scene-by-scene breakdown creates a foundation for even deeper analysis of the story.
You may download the script for Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012) here.
Celeste & Jesse Forever
Scene by Scene Breakdown
By Ryan Canty
pg. 1 Montage of shots over the opening credits to Sunny Levine’s “Love Rhino”, a progression of images of CELESTE and JESSE, ages 18 to 30. As they evolve, visual media evolves as well:
A1 – Polaroids of Celeste and Jesse in high school. Celeste is a chronic overachiever, Jesse is the opposite. Jesse and Celeste are best friends, but clearly, Jesse wants more. Close up of their hands crossed, making “C” and “J” shapes; Celeste kissing her football player boyfriend, Mike, as Jesse watches enviously from the side, holding Mike’s helmet.
B1: DISPOSABLE CAMERA PHOTOS: Jesse and Celeste go to college together, they study together, drink together. They’re still best friends. Junior year shot of Celeste kissing her hot, black, militant boyfriend named Saleem. Another shot of Jesse reluctantly posing with the couple, holding up a weak “Black Power” fist.
C1: SUPER 8 FOOTAGE: Senor year, Celeste and Jesse are finally together. Jesse draws a “C AND J FOREVER” in the snow in a forest and he and Celeste kiss deeply.
D1: DIGITAL VIDEO OF “CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER”” On an engraved necklace, carved into a tree, written on a wet beach and on their wedding cake.
E1: BLACK AND WHITE HI-RES PHOTOS SHOW THEM MARRIED: Celeste and Jesse move into their house, dancing, and reading side-by-side, kissing. This is true, everlasting love, the real kind.
F1: SHUTTERFLY ALBUM PHOTOS FROM FRIENDS’ PARTIES: Celeste and Jesse in silence, among joyful party guests. Jesse telling a joke and Celeste no longer laughing. Jesse and Celeste on a beach, distant. The next picture, hugging.
G1: MACBOOK PHOTO BOOTH SNAPSHOT: Jesse asleep on Celeste’s shoulder as she kisses him on the head.
pg. 2-4: Celeste and Jesse, now 30, sing along to “Love Rhino” (the song heard in the opening credits) in the car. Celeste gets a call from her job to give a sound bite for the New York Times and Jesse distracts her, by being a nuisance.
pg. 4 Celeste and Jesse argue about LACMA’s “Urban Light” installation as they drive past it. Celeste is touched when Jesse pulls over in front of a fabric shop that carries the dead stock vintage Italian fabric she wants. Jesse thinks it will be good for the guest room windows. Celeste goes into the store as Jesse answers a cell phone call.
pg. 4-7 Celeste gets back in the car with fabric swatches and goes to tell him about it but sees that he’s on a call. As she waits quietly, Jesse is on a call. Assuming it’s for the job interview he has at Slate, Celeste is excited. When he tells her it’s actually about a surfing swell, Celeste is disappointed. She and Jesse have a back and forth about Jesse talking about the swell and Celeste wanting him to get a job. Rather than discuss it further, Celeste tells him to take her home so he can surf and he does. They get home and Celeste tells him to get ready for their dinner with friends Beth and Tucker. Celeste gets out of the car and Jesse flashes their signature “C and J” hand sign, which Celeste flashes back. He drives off.
pg. 7-10: Celeste and Jesse have dinner with Beth and Tucker, their close friends from college who are engaged. Beth and Celeste talk about band choices for their upcoming wedding. Tucker isn’t happy about the music selection and Beth tells him they’ll talk about it later. Celeste and Jesse look over the menu and their conversation is said in extremely awful German accents. They laugh at this joke a bit too long. There’s a lull in the convo. Beth loudly drops her knife and goes off about how she doesn’t understand what the fuck Celeste and Jesse are doing since the two have been divorced for six months and she can’t understand why they’re acting like nothing is wrong and they’re always together. Neither Celeste nor Jesse understands why she’s upset or what the big deal is. Beth looks to Tucker for help and he thinks it’s weird also. Beth tells them this isn’t cool and how it doesn’t work for her. She leaves the restaurant. Celeste and Jesse continue their awful German accented conversation and Tucker says their both weird and that he can’t do this and how fucked up it is and he leaves. Celeste and Jesse sip their wine quietly.
pg. 10-11: Celeste and Jesse drive home for the restaurant and talk about how they think it’s weird Beth and Tucker are upset and how they don’t understand why. They’re fine with their current relationship and think its fine.
pg. 11-12: Celeste and Jesse get home. They linger in the driveway for a bit. Celeste asks about the heat in his studio, where he currently lives on her property. He says it’s fine. That he’s fine. Jesse goes to leave then tell her he’s sorry for still living at her place. Celeste brushes it off and is okay with him living at her place. Celeste tells him to move all of his things out of the way for the contractor, who’s coming in to get measurements in the morning. They said good night and go in their respective houses for the night.
pg. 12-14: Celeste is up the next morning, eating her breakfast and watching CNN. Newspapers are neatly stacked near her. She is quite the culture vulture. Jesse walks by outside his studio and they flash the “C and J” sign at each other. She wonders if she and Jesse actually do hang out together too much. She dismisses it. Later, Celeste walks into Coffee and Bean, in a rush. On her Blackberry, she gets in the sort of line people are in. Celeste gets annoyed when a businessman cuts in front of the line to get coffee. Celeste calls him out about it. Celeste and the businessman have a back and forth about his cutting in line. The man dismisses her and as he leaves, and Celeste calls the man a prick under her breath and out of his earshot. At POP FORM, her job, Celeste gives an interview to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and trashes pop star Riley Banks and the Transformers franchise.
pg. 15-17: Celeste runs into Scott, her business partner. She tells Scott about her drama with Beth and Tucker last night and Scott tells her that despite what Beth and Tucker said, Celeste and Jesse’s relationship is done when it’s done. Celeste mentions that if she were gay (motioning to Scott), no one would question them being friends. Scott says she and Jesse aren’t ready to let each other go and there isn’t anything wrong with that. Celeste agrees and asks him what he thinks. She looks at her email and interrupts. She finds out POP FORM just signed Riley Banks as a client after she just got done trashing her. Scott told her that’s why he wanted to come in to talk about the account. Celeste says they built this company so they wouldn’t have to take clients like Riley. Scott reminds her they’re in a recession and they won’t have a company if they don’t. Celeste calls Riley a soulless hologram and Scott tells her Riley’s releasing an album and she wants them to do her branding and merchandising and they need the account. Celeste starts to head out and go to lunch. Scott says Celeste should date. Celeste says she doesn’t date and discusses her 25-year plan. Scott says no one has that but Celeste tells him her plan anyways. Celeste isn’t worried. Scott tells her to get her fuck on before you meet the next guy. Celeste looks at Scott and he says he was trying to be her “saucy gay friend” and realized it didn’t work. She agrees and goes to lunch.
pg. 17: Jesse and his friend Skillz, another man-child, wait in a long ass line of people at LA’s trendiest new yogurt place. They talk about the current economic climate and how rough it is.
pg. 18: Skillz interrupts the conversation to comment on a woman whose apple bottom behind is stuffed into a pair of blue jeans. Jessie doesn’t laugh and looks upset. Jesse tells Skillz that he doesn’t think he and Celeste and over. Skillz tells him it’s been over and he needs to accept that. Jesse isn’t ready to do that but tells Skillz he had a one-night stand with a woman a couple months after he and Celeste broke up. Skillz says it sounds like Jesse like the girl he had a one-night stand with. Jesse admits she’s not Celeste and he’s not ready to give up on he and Celeste.
pg. 19: Skillz tells him it’s plenty of women out there and that Jesse should remind Celeste he can find somebody too. Jesse says he should go out with somebody. Jesse tells the Yogurt Girl taking his order that he doesn’t want to be a quitter and gives her his yogurt order. Skillz tells the Yogurt Girl she should go on a date with Jesse. Yogurt Girl asks about his wife. Jesse says they’re separated. Yogurt Girl says that’s a bummer. But decides to go on a date with him.
pg. 19-21: Celeste and Beth are at LACMA Modern Art section. Beth apologizes about yelling at her and Jesse at dinner the night before. Celeste tells Beth she loves Jesse but realizes Jesse is a man-child. She says the father of her children will have a car but Jesse will always be her best friend. Beth says fine but tells her he shouldn’t be living in her guesthouse. She says she thinks Celeste is slowing breaking his heart. Celeste says he’s fine. Beth pulls Celeste into a corner and shows her a hair sticking out of her neck. The two argue about the hair and Celeste yanks the hair out of her neck. Beth screams out in pain and calls her rude. Celeste dismisses her and says it had to be done.
pg. 22: Jesse is at in his studio. Celeste stops by and asks him if he’s working and if he’s watching the Olympics and crying again. They talk about the video and she asks him if he finished the artwork for the Pop Form website. Jesse says he’s almost done. Celeste says that’s great but she needed it yesterday.
pg. 23:Jesse asks her to sit down and she does. Jesse tells her he has a date tonight. Celeste says it’s great. Jesse is surprised. Celeste is totally fine with it. Jesse tells her it’s the Yogurt Girl from the yogurt place Jesse was at earlier in the day. Celeste comments on how cute and how young she is. Jesse says she’s super young and that her body is all-time. Celeste dismisses the body comment and says his going out on a date is great. Jesse says it’s just a date. Celeste hugs him in an unconsciously patronizing way.
pg. 24: Celeste says she’s proud of him and this confuses and hurts Jesse slightly. Celeste asks to get up and Jesse says sure. Jesse says Skillz made him do it and asks her why she’s looking at him. Celeste asks him if he’s going to wear his hair like that. Jesse asks if it’s weird. She says no. It’s just different. She messes with his hair. Jesse says their divorcing and they are friends and also dating people. Is that what they are doing. Celeste is satisfied with messing with his hair and that he’ll be fine. Jesse says okay mom and Celeste asks him to call her after.
pg. 25: Jesse is on a date with Yogurt Girl. Jesse hasn’t been talking much during the date. Meanwhile, Celeste is in her bedroom on her computer. She hears Jesse and Yogurt Girl giggling and going into the guesthouse. The next morning, Celeste does her morning ritual of drinking coffee, eating breakfast and surfing the internet. She listens to a song from Riley Banks album and deduces it’s as bad as she thought it would be. Celeste looks over at the studio and sees that he’s alone.
pg. 25-27: Celeste, Jesse, Beth and Tucker are at a Border’s Books, looking for Celeste’s book, Shitegeist, among the shelves. Celeste finds copies of her book on the bottom row of the “More New Releases” section in an obscure aisle. She’s very disappointed. Celeste grabs a copy of her book and walks to the front of the store. Beth tells her not to steal her own book. Celeste goes to the Oprah’s Book Club table and quickly replaces the center display book with her own. Beth tells her she can’t do that, Celeste doesn’t care. Jesse and Tucker see the book and Jesse congratulates her on being on Oprah’s Book List. Celeste sees people browsing her book and drags Beth and Tucker off to eavesdrop. As they leave, a woman calls out Jesse’s name. He sees Veronica, a woman he knows. Veronica asks about his clothespin collage. He says its going and Veronica says she likes it. It quickly becomes apparent that Veronica is the one night stand Jesse told Skillz about the other day. They admit they both had fun that night and Jesse apologizes for not calling back. Celeste and the others come back. Jesse introduces Veronica to everyone. Veronica tells Celeste she read part of her book online and how compelling it is. Celeste thanks her. Veronica tells Jesse its great to see him and she leaves.
pg. 28: Celeste asks what Veronica’s story is. Jesse says there is no story. Celeste remarks on how pretty she is. Celeste changes focus and loudly asks a Border’s employee where she can find copies of her Shitegeist book so that everyone can hear her. Jesse, Beth and Tucker look at her like she’s crazy and they walk away from her.
pg. 28: Jesse and SKillz are leaving a Biz Markie concert at the Troubadour Theater later that night. Older hip-hop fans and young hipsters who weren’t even alive when Biz’s first album came out surround them. Jesse and Skillz are trashed.
pg. 29: Celeste calls Jesse on the phone and Skillz tells him to ignore her. Jesse doesn’t and talks to Celeste. Skillz begs him to go to the after party. Jesse says Celeste needs help building an IKEA dresser. Skillz is confused about what is going on between Celeste and Jesse. Jesse says he knows what he’s doing and that Celeste just needed time.
pg. 29-32: Jesse comes into the guest house to find Celeste sitting on the floor and having a glass of wine, clearly failing at fixing the dresser. He sits down to help her. A half hour later, both are drunk and Jesse is struggling to put the dresser together. Thirty more minute later, the two are fully drunk and admiring the mangled robot they put together instead of the actual dresser. Celeste tell him he’s cute and kisses him. Jesse kisses her back. They fall back. The next morning, they’re in bed. Celeste is asleep. Jesse wakes up and kisses Celeste all over her face. Celeste wakes up, hung-over and confused. Jesse tells Celeste he loves her. Celeste doesn’t want to hear it and how drunk they are and it was a bad idea to sleep together. Jesse says it was nice and he loves her. Celeste tells him it they shouldn’t have done it and Jesse says he’s stupid. Celeste tells him she wasn’t thinking. If she was, they wouldn’t have slept together. She says they aren’t getting back together and realizes Jesse thought they were getting back together. Jesse gets up and leaves. He tells her to call IKEA and they can send a guy to help her build her dresser. He then tells her the guy can fuck her too. He calls himself an idiot and leaves the studio as Celeste tries to apologize but goes back to bed when he leaves.
pg. 32: Celeste is at a yoga class later in the morning. A guy named Paul says hi. She says it back and quickly walks away. Paul follows her and asks about her practice.
pg. 33-34: Paul compliments on her warrior two and asks if she’s single. Paul attempting to ask her out annoys Celeste and Paul is embarrassed by his wack game. Paul tries again and gives her his card. Celeste isn’t impressed. Paul asks her what she does for a living and she dismisses him but he asks again. She tells him and he scoffs at her career. Paul follows her out to the parking lot and Celeste turns around and tells him exactly who he is, i.e. Paul traded in his Porsche for an Audi because of the tanking economy and his fear of losing his job, his Samsung phone, and his going to yoga because he went to a sub-Ivy League because he felt like it was time to do something “spiritual”. Celeste tells him goodbye and walks away. Paul is shocked.
pg. 34: Celeste gets home and sees that Jesse moved out of the guest house/studio.
pg. 34-35: Celeste is about to go on the road for work. She’s on the phone discussing her San Francisco focus group for her book tour. She calls Jesse and leaves him a message.
pg. 35: Celeste is at the Boston Four Seasons Hotel having lunch with eight teenagers. She asks questions, they all laugh and she engages them. Celeste excuses herself to call Jesse.
pg. 35: She’s in her San Francisco Hotel room at night, watching CNN and calls Jesse. The phone just rings.
pg. 35: Jesse is at an LA Diner. He’s mid-laugh and sees that Celeste is calling. He presses “Ignore”. He’s with Veronica. They’re together.
pg. 35: Celeste is in her W Hotel room. She calls Jesse again and tells him she misses him. She hangs up and tells herself she loves him and she’s sorry.
pg. 36: Jesse is walking in West Hollywood. He calls Celeste. He says he wants to talk to her. Later that night, Celeste is in her house and calls him back saying she wants to talk. Jesse tells her he’s close and asks to come by.
pg. 36-37: It’s later in the evening as Celeste puts away groceries. Jesse tells her he wants to tell her something. Celeste asks if he’s gay. Jesse says no. Jesse tells Celeste he is having a baby. Celeste is confused. She’s still putting away groceries and is half-listening. Jesse tells her again. Celeste is clearly confused when Jesse tells her he’s having a baby with Veronica.
p. 38-39: Celeste is confused since she met Veronica two weeks ago. Jesse tells her he slept with Veronica three months ago. Celeste is stunned but tells Jesse that they’ll handle it and Jesse tells her she doesn’t need to do anything. Celeste continues to not understand and Jesse wants to make it work with Veronica. Jesse tries to explain what is happening and Celeste stops him. She excuses herself and goes to the bathroom to silently cry. She can’t believe what Jesse is telling her.
pg. 39: Celeste comes back to her living room. Jesse is waiting for her. Jesse tells her he knows this is weird but he knows that Celeste wanted to let him go and he’s okay with that. Jesse tells Celeste he loves her and gives her a hug.
pg. 40: Jesse realizes Celeste wanted to tell him something and Celeste says it’s not important.
pg. 40-41: The next day, Celeste is at her office. She tells Scott about Jesse having a baby as she gets him up to speed on P. Diddy having a Twitter page and American Idol. Scott is surprised and Celeste tells him Jesse “making it work” with Veronica is a plane crash. Scott says he’s sorry. Celeste says she’s fine. Scott doesn’t believe her. Celeste tells Scott about a date she might have later that night – the guy who did Pop Form’s taxes last quarter. Scott agrees with Celeste when she tells him it will be good to be admired and that she might even have a human emotion while on the date.
pg. 42: Celeste is in her workout clothes cleaning her house frantically. She walks past her office and see the IKEA robot she built with Jesse but keeps walking.
pg. 42: Later that evening, she’s on her date. Celeste talks about issues with her foot and see Jesse at the bar by himself, watching TV. Celeste isn’t ready for this and freaks out. She tells her date to leave. He won’t. Jesse comes over to their table to say hi.
pg. 43: Celeste introduces Jesse to her date and Jesse suggests a meal for them to get. Celeste’s date says he’s getting that and asks who he’s with. He’s alone. Max and Jesse talk about the Lakers-Cavs game. Jesse says his goodbyes. Max says Jesse is cool.
pg. 44-46: Celeste is clearly bothered by this and is quiet for the rest of the date, even as Max asks her if she was okay about them talking to Jesse. After dinner, Celeste asks to go out next week. Max says no. Celeste thinks it about mercury poisoning and tells him that’s not a real thing and Max tells her she needs to some time to get over her divorce. He tells her it took him time start dating again. Celeste thanks him for his concern and she says she’s fine. He leaves and Celeste dismisses him.
pg. 46: The next day, Celeste is running hard down La Cienega Boulevard.
pg. 46: Two weeks later, Celeste meets Beth at H.D. Buttercup in full marathon gear. Beth is shocked that Celeste ran there from West Hollywood.
pg. 46-48: Celeste nearly collapses. Beth asks if she needs to sit. Celeste does only to be told by the saleswoman she’s in a one of a kind chair and sits in a metal one instead. Celeste asks Beth if she’s seen Jesse. Beth has. Celeste asks if she’s hung out with Veronica and she has. Silence. Celeste thinks Veronica is dumb and Beth says otherwise. As they leave, Beth tells her she thinks she’d like Veronica.
pg. 49: Beth asks if Celeste is having second thoughts. She says no. Celeste tells her she has another date with Gap model Rupert Bates. Beth thinks he’s hot but says he’s 15. Celeste tells her he’s 22 and Skillz set him up. She tells Beth he’s filming 20,000 B.C., the prequel to 10,000 B.C. They both loved that movie and Celeste says it spoke to her. The next night, Celeste is at Rupert’s house, mortified at the song he wrote and is singing to her.
pg. 50: Celeste lies and says the song is good. She asks Rupert how he knows Skillz. She finds out Skillz is Rupert’s weed dealer. Celeste is disgusted. Rupert sits next to her and kisses her. Celeste is not interested and leaves. The next day, Celeste is in the bathroom and hears Riley and her friend Savannah talking.
pg. 51: Riley cracks a joke about who built POP FORM and Celeste comes out of one of the bathroom stalls. She introduces herself to Riley and Riley tells her she’s pretty. Riley picks at her skin and says her skin regime is a problem. Celeste corrects Riley on her use of the word regime and Riley calls her scrabble and thanks her. Celeste isn’t impressed.
pg. 52: Celeste, Riley and Scott are in a conference room going over Riley’s branding strategy, Celeste is distracted. She’s on her Blackberry looking up the word regime. She was right and shoots a patronizing smile at Riley. Riley looks away. Later, Celeste tells Scott about her date with Rupert and offers to set her up with photographer Nick Moran.
pg. 53:-55: Celeste is excited even though she’s not comfortable dating. Scott assures her it will be fine and tries to slip in a gay joke. Celeste tells him to work harder on integrating the gayness. Later that night, Celeste is on her date with Nick. She’s into him and he’s into her. They realize they missed their reservation and get room service instead. Later that night, Nick and Celeste are kissing each other on a couch. They stop then go at it again. Celeste sees that Nick is masturbating on top of her. Freaking out, she slides out from underneath him, grabs her stuff and leaves the living room just as he climaxes.
pg. 55-60: Celeste gets a message from Jesse after she finishes her run. He asks her to meet him at a vegan restaurant in Echo Park. The two meet and Celeste is surprised at how changed Jesse is: eating vegan food. They both compliment each other on how good they both look. Celeste is shocked at all of the changes Jesse is making in his life and she doesn’t buy any of it. The two talk about his life with Veronica which Celeste says she’s okay with but clearly isn’t. Jesse tells Celeste he wants to marry Veronica so he needs her to sign the divorce papers. Celeste is clearly not happy with Jesse being with Veronica. The two argue with Celeste bringing up how she paid the rent for a decade when Jesse tells her Veronica is supportive of him. Celeste doesn’t believe he’ll be a good father. Jesse tells her she had reservations about having kids. Celeste flat out tells him she had reservations about having kids with HIM. Jesse tells her Veronica will be a great mother. Celeste is pissed at this. She tells him she’ll sign the papers and how ridiculous he and the restaurant are and leaves.
pg. 60: Later that night, Celeste is in the hallway of her house. She sees the IKEA robot as she walks past her office. In her office, she looks at the robot. In a fit of anger, she rips the robot’s head off and then takes the torso and destroys the rest of the robot. She stops, sees what she’s done and cries.
pg. 60-64: Later that night, Celeste and Beth are at a home in the Hollywood Hills and survey the scene. Beth is dressed like a little boy, wearing a brown wig, sunglasses and sneakers. Celeste can’t believe Jesse’s a vegan. Beth tells her Jesse’s work is being shown at the Gagosian. Celeste is shocked about this. Beth tries to comfort her over this but Celeste isn’t hearing it. Celeste asks Beth who they’re supposed to be dressed as for the party they’re going to later. Beth tells him Bieber and Celeste informs her that he just cut his hair a couple hours earlier. Beth is upset over this and Celeste says she needs a drink. Beth dismisses two men who ask them if they want to join them and have car bombs in the kitchen. Celeste says yes and goes with them. Minutes Later, Celeste is downing Car Bombs with five guys and keeping pace. A woman dressed as Snow White and asks who she is. Celeste tells her White trash. Paul walks in and they see each other. Celeste is totally wasted. They guess each other’s costumes and he tells her she’s right about him. Celeste asks if he smokes. He does only at parties. They leave. In the backyard, Paul apologizes about the gym. She shuts up him, saying not to ruin the moment. Paul wants to know if he and Celeste are “happening”. Celeste tells him about Jesse and her impending divorce. Paul tells her she’s right now what. Celeste is confused. Paul asks if she wants to be right or does she want to be happy. Celeste tells him off saying she wants to be right. Paul tells her that no one has given a more self-righteous monologue wearing only a trash bag. Beth and Tucker find Celeste and Paul. They take her home. Paul tells her to call him.
pg. 65-69: A few days later. Celeste is going through papers on her desk. She finds Jesse old notebooks. She calls him about his stuff and hangs up. She decides to go to his house and starts throwing everything of his into a box. Later, Celeste is at Jesse and Veronica’s house. She leaves the box by the door but takes the one journal with nice passages about her and sees that it’s trash day. Meanwhile, Jesse and Veronica are driving home and Veronica tells him he’ll be a great dad. He’s surprised. He asks how she knows that. She just does. Celeste goes through their trash. In the car, Jesse and Veronica asks what each other’s middle names are. They’re getting to know each other. It’s awkward, but they’re trying. As Celeste continues going through Jesse and Veronica’s trash, her diamond bracelet slips off. Freaking out, she drops Jesse’s journal to look for her bracelet. As she looks, a piece of glass from the can slices her face. She screams out in pain. She gets out of the trash just as Jesse and Veronica pull into their driveway and get out of the car. Jesse asks her what she’s doing. She struggles to find an excuse. She tells him she dropped his stuff off and says she lost her bracelet in the trash so she was looking for it. Veronica notices her face is cut and offers to get something for it. Celeste tells her no and leaves with Jesse’s journal. Jesse asks if that’s his. She says yes, gives it to him and leaves.
pg. 69: The next day, Celeste listens to messages on her speakerphone as she’s on Instant Messenger with Beth, telling her about the incident at Jesse’s. Beth tells her she’s coming over. Celeste gets Paul’s message. He asks her if she wants to have a drink with him and leaves his number.
pg. 69: 30 minutes later. Beth and Celeste are having lunch. Beth isn’t impressed with how Celeste handled her dumpster diving at Jesse and Veronica’s. Celeste tells her about Paul and how he wants to go out with her but she’s not sure. Beth tells her to go out with him.
pg. 70-73: Celeste is bothered by the fact that she met him at the gym. Beth tells her to go. She has nothing to lose. Later that night, Celeste and Paul are getting a Thai massage together. Celeste asks him where he lives. He tells her and she says cool. The masseuses come in. Celeste tells him this is a unique place to go for a date. He says he takes all his dates here. She laughs. Paul asks her about being right. Celeste admits it’s not going well. Lucky, Celeste’s masseuse, cracks her back loudly. Later, they leave and Celeste complains about how the massage hurt. Paul asked her how she feels. She surprisingly feels great. Celeste asks where they’re going. Paul tells her to not control him and to just let go. He says that’s called vairyaga and does a reverse triangle pose in the parking lot. Celeste isn’t happy about this. They get to the club and Paul takes Celeste to a cool speakeasy. Celeste is impressed. Celeste just goes with the flow and gets on the dance floor. Paul gets beers for them and follows after her. He’s not a bad dancer and they really enjoy dancing with each other and Celeste actually has a great time. Celeste kisses Paul. Paul is surprised and asks her why she kissed him. She tells him it’s vairyaga and to let go. They smile at each other.
pg. 73-75: Jesse , Tucker and Skillz are at Fairfax High School watching the cheerleaders practice. Jesse looks at his iPhone, specifically, at his and Veronica’s Baby Registry. They talk about what Jesse and Veronica are getting from their registry. Jesse asks Skillz about Celeste. He says she’s fine and that he’s fine tuning her weed levels at the moment. Jesse says she doesn’t smoke pot. Skillz says she does now and loves it. Tucker asks about Veronica. Jesse says she’s fine but less sweet now that she’s pregnant. As they talk, Skillz ‘s favorite song, Tupac’s “California Love” comes on and the Cheerleaders practice a routine to it. Skillz isn’t a great dancer at all but he’s committed. Tucker asks Jesse if he’s scared. Jesse says he is. Skillz shows Jesse a text from Celeste saying she needs weed.
pg. 75-76: Skillz shows up at Celeste’s house with weed a few minutes later. Celeste is crying about Jesse and his new life and is rambling about it. Skillz asks her what she’s talking about and she tells him to roll a joint. Celeste asks about Jesse and Veronica. Skillz says they’re okay. Celeste says Jesse isn’t happy and Skillz tells her he didn’t say that.
pg. 76: The next day, another branding strategy meeting for Riley finishes. Riley tells Celeste she likes the logo. Celeste says it’s perfect. Riley mentions the I.M. Pei reference. Celeste dismisses Riley’s comment. Riley thinks Celeste is mocking her and Celeste tells her she’s surprised she knows anything about architecture. Riley tells her that Celeste assumes she’s stupid because she’s a pop star and Riley tells her that Celeste’s problem is that she think she’s the smartest person in the room and that’s her “dark little prison”. Celeste gets mad at this. Riley smiles and leaves.
pg. 76-78: Celeste is on her way home from Pop Form, pissed about what Riley said to her. She is even more annoyed when she sees Jesse sitting on her porch, smoking. Celeste walks up to him. Before she can speak, Jesse tells her he misses her and they go inside and talk. Jesse tells Celeste about gallerist at Gagosian and how Veronica knows him. Celeste tells him she’s happy for him. But, Jesse clearly isn’t happy and Celeste doesn’t know why. Jesse gets up to go home and they hug each other. He looks at her and kisses her. Celeste tells him he should go home. Jesse asks If they can just lay on the couch for a bit. They do. Celeste is crying.
pg. 78-80: The next morning, Celeste wakes up. Jesse is gone. Scott calls her and tells her to come to office now. Later that afternoon, Scott shows her Riley’s logo. It’s a picture of a penis and a butt. Celeste doesn’t see the issue. Scott does. He puts a DVD into a DVD player. The news clips come on. Newscasters and parents complain about the homosexual sex they see in the logo. Scott asks her what she did. Celeste realizes what everyone sees, a penis inside of a but and thinks it’s funny. Scott is pissed and tells her to go home so he can fix this.
pg. 80-81: Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” plays as Celeste walks through the throng of celebrity impersonators, tourists and drunks on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A montage plays of Celeste and Jesse in happier times. A giant Chewbacca hugging her shakes Celeste out of these memories.
pg. 81-84: Celeste and Jesse meet at a dive bar later that night. Celeste admits she fucked things up between them. Celeste wants another chance but Jesse isn’t looking at her. Jesse says he can’t do this and leaves. Celeste follows him. Outside, they argue about their relationship and why it fell apart. Both let each other have it about their marriage and why it failed. They tell each other not to call each other and Jesse walks away.
pg. 84-86: Celeste and Skillz are in her backyard, watching Dirty Dancing. Celeste asks Skillz why Jesse hurt her. He tells her she wanted the divorce. It’s not him. She didn’t want it like this. Skillz tells her she needs to change herself. Celeste is confused. He gets up to leave. She asks if she can come with him. He tells her no. She asks him to get her Chinese food. He says no. She asks if he thinks the Obamas love each other. He tells her yes and stops the questions. He tells her he’ll pick her up at noon for Beth and Tucker’s BBQ and to ease up on the weed.
pg. 86-89: Celeste is trashed at Beth and Tucker’s BBQ. Celeste isn’t a happy camper and lets everyone know. Beth pulls her aside to calm her down. Beth asks for a drink at the bar and Beth drags her away. Celeste starts crying and says she doesn’t want to be alone forever. Beth says she will be until she sobers up. Celeste goes to the other side of the pool and promises she won’t make her look bad. Later, Celeste is asleep floating on a raft in the pool. Skillz tells Beth he’ll get Celeste. The next day, Celeste is hung-over at Beth’s house. Beth is trying on clothes. Celeste wakes up, calls Riley to apologize then she and Beth go off about how stupid Riley is and how much of a tart she is. Celeste realizes she never hung up when she left Riley a message and freaks out. She hangs up and throws her Blackberry on the bed. Riley calls her and tells her to come over immediately.
pg. 89-90: Celeste comes over to apologize. Riley tells her to shut up and informs Celeste her boyfriend broke up with her. She’s totally upset and didn’t know who to call. Celeste hugs her and says she called the smartest person she knows. Later that night, Riley is asleep on the couch as Celeste sits next to her, watching ESPN Classic’s “Great Sports Moments of 2008”. She’s watching the same Olympics telecast that Jesse was crying over earlier in the movie. She’s crying and this wakes Riley up. Riley comforts Celeste. Riley asks will it get better. Celeste says it will for her. She’ll be fine.
pg. 90-91: In the morning, Celeste runs to a dry cleaners. Her phone rings. She tells the person she’s on the road already and she confirms that the wedding is near Bakersfield. There’s a long line and she asks everyone if she can cut in front of them, doing the very thing she complained about at Coffee Bean earlier in the movie. Paul calls her. She ignores his call.
pg. 92-94: Celeste makes her way to Beth and Tucker’s wedding. In the car, she makes up songs about shitty traffic, laughs uncontrollably and stars screaming. Later that afternoon, while at a Deli in Big Sur, Celeste eats a sandwich and sees wedding guests outside. They all wave at each other. Later that night, the wedding is underway. Beth and Tucker are wedding and everyone is clapping while Celeste looks exhausted and tired. At the reception, Celeste rolls her eyes at the three girls talking about Beth and Tucker. Celeste gets up to give her speech. Celeste forgot her entire speech so she wings it. Beth cringes as Celeste says she forgot her speech. She tells a nun joke that only Beth father laughs at. All of the wedding guests are uncomfortable. Celeste keeps talking, telling everyone about how she, Jesse, Beth and Tucker would get together during senior year of college and just talk about everything that matter to them. She says she and Jesse spent years trying to get them together. Celeste tells everyone about how they all remained friends as Tucker slept with every slut on the planet for five years. Tucker flinches. Celeste says he finally got a clue and fell in love with her. Everyone claps. She tells everyone that she and Jesse are divorcing and that Beth and Tucker need to work on marriage. It’s not easy and they should be patient. She also tells them to fight for their marriage everyday. She admits she wishes she had.
pg. 94-96: An hour later and Celeste is holding a plate of food. Jesse sits next to her. They comment on Tucker’s dancing and how shitty he truly is. They make fun of the girls’ speech before hers. Jesse says her speech was beautiful. Celeste tells him you know what else is beautiful. She picks up a baby gherkin and starts to jerk it off, as she and Jesse did earlier in the film and many times before. Jesse gets into it and they go back and forth until Veronica comes over to them and they stop. She asks what they are doing. Celeste tries to explain it. Veronica doesn’t get it and Jesse and Celeste realize how stupid it is. Celeste tells Veronica it’s stupid. Veronica says she’ll see her out on the dance floor and they leave Celeste by herself.
pg. 96: Later that night at the wedding, Celeste watching guests dancing on the dance floor. It’s very bittersweet for her.
pg. 96-98: Celeste and Paul are having date night at his condo. They’re playing scrabble and drinking wine. Both are enjoying the game and each other. Later, Celeste and Paul are making out on the couch. Celeste gets aggressive. Celeste tells him to get a condom. Paul says they shouldn’t sleep together. Celeste stops making out with him, shocked. Paul isn’t sure. Celeste is confused. She asks what’s wrong. He tells her he might really like her, Distant, Celeste tells him she likes him too.
pg. 98-100: Celeste and Riley are at a club. Riley says Celeste’s speech is totally embarrassing. But, Celeste feels great about giving her speech. Celeste looks around the club. Its just men dancing together. Celeste tells Riley the gays know how to party. Riley says she doesn’t think this is gay club, Celeste tells her the club is named SWALLOW. Riley looks around and she finally gets it. Two guys come over and ask Celeste for Riley’s autograph. Celeste sees that they are wearing shirts with Riley’s logo on them. She asks if they know what it is. They do and they love it! Celeste asks one of them if he buys the biggest size they make. The guy tells her he wears a size 10 in tween and has a slight frame. They both walk away offended. Celeste turns to Riley who is enjoying herself. Celeste has an idea.
pg. 100-101: Celeste is hiking in Runyon Canyon the next morning talking to Scott about the gays loving Riley and turning the cock in the butt logo fiasco around. Scott is on board. Celeste screams they’ll make cock in the butt work as a mother and her daughter walk past her and glare at her. She waves at them. Shuggie Otis’s “Inspiration Information” plays over a montage: Paul, Celeste, Beth and Tucker are a Mexican restaurant. Paul tells a story. He’s very confident. Celeste is a bit embarrassed. Beth and Tucker laugh at it. Celeste smiles. Jesse and Veronica are in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, nervous. Jesse offers his hand to Veronica. She takes it and smiles. Finally, the montage ends with Celeste, Riley and Scott at a T-shirt signing at “A Friend of Dorothy’s”, a gay store in West Hollywood.
pg. 101-103: Celeste runs into Veronica at Target. They awkwardly ask how each other is doing. Celeste barely handles Beth helping Veronica with her baby shower. Veronica says she’s terrified but Celeste assures her she’ll be fine. Veronica tries to apologize for how everything happened between her, Celeste and Jesse. Celeste says it’s fine. Veronica tells her she doesn’t blame her for any of this. Celeste says its okay. Celeste congratulates Veronica on Jesse’s book coming out and both acknowledge he’s talented. And, it’s awkward.
pg. 103-106: Celeste and Paul are at karaoke. Paul is really putting his all into his song, singing “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Celeste sings with him. Celeste drops her mike as Paul keeps singing. He tells her to sing with her and she says she can’t. He’s confused. She tells him she’s getting divorced and she needs to do it alone. Paul is hurt but he gets it and tells her he respects it and tells her when she’s ready, she’ll know. Don’t force it. It’s just yoga shit. Celeste thanks him and Paul tells her he really does like her and when she’s ready, to call him.
pg. 106: Celeste and Jesse are at the lawyer’s office signing the papers, which finalize their divorce. As Celeste signs, she says she likes his tie. As she signs, she asks if it’s made out of organic mung beans (a dig at Veronica and his new lifestyle). Jesse laughs and takes a final dig at her saying he found it digging through her trash. Celeste gets the joke. This breaks the tension in the office. He laughs and it sounds like a baby pig. Then, Celeste laughs.
pg. 107-110: Celeste and Jesse continue laughing as their lawyers look at each other, confused. Later, they walk out of the building together. They high five each other. Jesse asks her to walk with him and she does. They end up at LACMA at sundown. Celeste sees the “Urban Light” installation and says its beautiful Jesse thought Celeste didn’t like it. She realizes Jesse is sad. He tells her he feels like Celeste may have been right and that Veronica left him and wants to go back home to Brussels. Jesse starts crying. Celeste tells him he’s not a loser and to fight for Veronica. She tells him to go get her. He isn’t sure if she should. Celeste tells him if he loves her, it’s worth fighting for. Celeste smiles as she cries. Celeste tells Jesse her deserves to be happy. Celeste makes the “C and J” sign one last time. Jesse makes it back. He tells Celeste he loves her and kisses her. She tells him the same. He leaves as she sits awhile looking at the sky.
pg. 110: The next day, Celeste is driving in her Prius. She calls Paul and tells him she may be ready to beat him in Scrabble. She stops at a gas station and runs in to pay for gas. She’s on her phone. She stands in line and a young man cuts right in front of her. Old Celeste returns for a moment. She stops herself. The man tells her he’s sorry for cutting. He needed to get water for his dog. She says no problem and smiles.
Writing Exercise: I encourage you to read the script, but short of that, if you’ve seen the movie, go through this scene-by-scene breakdown. What stands out to you about it from a structural standpoint?
If you’d like a PDF of the Celeste & Jesse Forever scene-by-scene breakdown, go here.
Major kudos to Ryan Canty for doing today’s breakdown.
I am looking for volunteers to read a script and provide a scene-by-scene breakdown for it to be used as part of our weekly series. What do you get? Beyond your name being noted here, my thanks, and some creative juju, hopefully you will learn something about story structure and develop another skill set which is super helpful in learning and practicing the craft.
The latest volunteers:
12 Years a Slave – Georgevine Moss
Beasts of No Nation – Jacob Holmes-Brown
Bridge of Spies – Scott Guinn
Carol – Jillienne Bee
Celeste and Jesse Forever – Ryan Canty
Diary of a Teenage Girl – Cynthia
Ex Machina – Nick Norman-Butler
Frozen – Doc Kane
Gone Girl – Ashley Lara
Inside Out – Katha
Legend – Olivia
Leviathan – Piotr Ryczko
Locke – Megaen Kelly
Macbeth – Trung
Man Up – Kristy Brooks
Monsters University – Liz Correal
Mud – Kevin
Nightcrawler – DJ Summit
Pawn Sacrifice – Michael Waters
Steve Jobs – Angie Soliman
Straight Outta Compton – Timm Higgins
The End of the Tour – Steve F
The Iron Lady – Leslie
The Way Way Back – The Deuce
Trainwreck – Joni Brainerd
Wreck It Ralph – Kenny Crowe
To see examples of scene-by-scene breakdowns, go here. Part of the goal is to create a library of breakdowns for writers to have at their disposal for research and learning.
You may see the scripts we can use for the series – free and legal – by going here.
To date, we have analyzed 53 movie scripts, a great resource for screenwriters. To see those analyses, go here.
Thanks to any of you who will rise to the occasion and take on a scene-by-scene breakdown.
And for those of you who have volunteered, please send me your scene-by-scene breakdown as soon as possible!
Circling back to where we started, reading scripts is hugely important. Analyzing them even more so. If you want to work in Hollywood as a writer, you need to develop your critical analytical skills. This is one way to do that.
So seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!
I hope to see you in comments about today’s script: Celeste & Jesse Forever.