Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Rated: R

Stars: Ethan Hawke,  Julie Delpy,  Seamus David-Fitzpatrick

Director: Richard Linklater

Genre: Drama/Arthouse

In Before Sunrise and Before Sunset,  Jesse and  Celine  (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy)  were falling in love.  In the third leg of the trilogy, Before Midnight, we find them as a  middle-aged couple with two young daughters. Jesse has a teenaged son who lives with his estranged wife back in the states.  

The film opens with Jesse and his boy, Hank, (Seamus David-Fitzpatrick) at the airport. Hank is returning to Chicago after spending some time on dad's turf in Europe. The father -son connection will figure prominently into the plot, as it's ripple effect will cause some tension between Jesse and Celine. Jesse wants them to consider moving to the states so he can be a real part of his son's life. Celine feels that's too radical of a shift. 

So we are there in the car with Jesse, Celine, and their adorable daughters, who are zonked out in the back seat. The two adults talk about all manner of mundane subjects. They talk. And they talk. And they talk. And while this extended scene is playing out, I'm beginning to wonder if I might soon be joining the little ones in la la land. 

And then I catch on.

Before Midnight is to be a movie in the mold of My Dinner With Andre, where the entire film is one long conversation around the dinner table. Here we thankfully get a few changes of scene along the way, but the similarity between the two films can't be ignored. We are the third wheel--the fly upon the wall--along for the ride to witness all the intimacy of this couple's life together, which ranges from an extended dinner table conversation with extended family, (everything about this film is extended) to some real intimacy in the bedroom where the sparks begin to fly. 

And it's all freaking BRILLIANT!

I gotta figure that much of the dialogue is off the cuff, because who is going to be able to deliver rehearsed lines in one continuous take that runs for a half an hour or so, without messing up?  Can you imagine the director, Richard Linklater, yelling "CUT"  twenty minutes into the scene, and they have to go back and take it from the top like, a hundred times? 

The brilliance of Before Midnight is that it is so fascinatingly real. In these tour-de-force performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, there is more than just acting going on here. These two have immersed themselves into their characters to a degree that is rarely seen these days. Life, death, love, loathing, conflict, philosophy--it's all there. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the extended toplessness of  Delpy in the bedroom scene. That really topped it off for me.   

Grade: A


Finally: a film that backs up the boxing kangaroo image.... I couldn't disagree more with Tim's praise-worthy review of this endless talkathon. I haven't seen the other two films in this tired trilogy but BEFORE MIDNIGHT has the power to make any "hopeless romantic" give up Valentine's Day. Clearly the two actors had a hand—a heavy one—in the improvised script for which they both get a credit at the end. We all know that women can drive you crazy with their incessant, unforgiving, beating-a-dead-horse repetitions of what pisses them off. And we also know that a man's best (and sometimes only) defense is deflecting the situation with humor. Yes, French-American actress Julie Delpy has a nice set of knockers. And yes, Ethan Hawke (ex hubby of Uma Thurman) uses his boyish smile effectively. But do I really need to sit through one hour and forty-eight minutes of this self-indulgence? For me, nice tits and a nice smile aren't nearly enough.

If I had to say something positive about this film? The scenery is spectacular. And I suppose I'd have to compliment director Richard Linklater for the relaxed and realistic way he shot that last supper scene which was, for me, the only redeeming five minutes in the entire film. In this instance, Tim and I saw BEFORE MIDNIGHT separately (him in Tucson, me in La Jolla). Had we seen it together, we'd probably still be in the empty movie theater arguing about our very divided reactions!

Grade: D



  1. I must admit that I haven't seen any of the preceding films to this one. I don't know why, but I always had the impression that there was an over-indulgent element to the first two instalments. I know I am wrong and biased and based on your review I will probably end up watching the three movies in a row, back to back. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  2. I'm with Jill on this one. The movie reminds me of the of the admonition to beginning writers to "show" rather than describe. I know what I mean by this, though it doesn't accurately apply to a movie. What I mean has go do with the blah, blah, blah. How about subtle actions, silent moments full of meaning. I like Jill's use of self indulgence. That was,the word I used to describe the wife. If we had rented the movie instead of seeing in the theatre, we,would have turned it off.

  3. CUBAN IN LONDON: Yeah, watching the first two films will give you a nice foundation for enjoying this one. It's always better to drop in on people you know--that way you hit the ground running when they start getting into personal stuff.

    ARLENE: I look at this film as a several course dinner. Some of the early courses may have been bland. but that dessert--WOW--it was well worth waiting for! But this type of film is not going to be for everyone. It does help, as I mentioned above, if you've followed the story of this couple from the beginning by seeing the first two films, and that you liked them. and would be curious about how they ended up.