Movie Review ~ Before Midnight

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The Facts
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Synopsis: We meet Jesse and Celine nine years on in Greece. Almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on that train bound for Vienna.

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Director: Richard Linklater

Rated: R

Running Length: 109 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  Well here we are…20 years after Before Sunrise was released and 9 years after its sequel added a new chapter to the story of Jesse and Celine.  Though Before Sunrise ended with no real plans for a sequel, the final moments of Before Sunset could be seen as having more room to continue the story should stars Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and director Richard Linklater (Bernie) want to return down the road.  Turns out that the supposed final chapter was a decade away…and worth the wait.

The two that first met on a train and spent a night in Vienna only to meet up again in Paris are now married with twin girls.  Vacationing in Greece, the film opens as Hawke (The Purge, Sinister) takes his young son from his first marriage to the airport, sending him home to NYC and his mother after a summer with his dad.  Waiting outside is Celine (Delpy) and the film really kicks into gear on the ride home from the airport in a masterful scene done in nearly one long take capturing a conversation between Jesse and Celine.

By now, Delpy and Hawke must have formed an invisible bond that allows dialogue to flow without any hesitation.  Though the dialogue and filming technique may suggest the script was improvised, it’s been said that the opposite was true.  Delpy, Hawke, and Linklater were strict with what they wrote and held each other accountable for the dialogue.  You’d never know it the way Delpy and Hawke deliver their lines…like two people having a conversation in the most naturalistic of styles.

Though I was worried that more secondary characters than ever are introduced in the first half of the film, I was pleased that their presence gave way to such focused dialogue on marriage, love, and relationships.  In different hands the words may have sounded grandiose and lugubrious, more interested in making people sound smart instead of honest…but it all works in a really majestic sort of way.

Unlike the awful This is 40, Before Midnight is able to show the complexities of marriage in a truthful and observant manner.  Jesse and Celine find themselves at a believable crossroads about their future and how Delpy, Hawke, and Linklater work their way toward a final painfully honest and brilliantly executed scene should be richly rewarded.  You rarely get the kind of satisfaction from an ongoing series as you do in Before Midnight.

I watched all three of the Before films in one sitting and I have to say…I highly recommend it.  It’s interesting that Hawke mentions in Before Sunrise what life may be like in 10, 20, years…and then to actually see the actors 10, 20 years later is remarkable.   A fitting conclusion to the story of Jesse and Celine…at least until the next film which I hope comes our way in another 10 years.

Movie Review ~ Before Sunset

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The Facts
:

Synopsis: Nine years after Jesse and Celine first met, they encounter each other again on the French leg of Jesse’s book tour.

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Director: Richard Linklater

Rated: R

Running Length: 80 minutes

TMMM Score: (7.5/10)

Review:  I wanted to see Before Sunset when it was released in 2004 but being the completist that I am and not having seen Before Sunrise, I had to take a pass until I was caught up. The years went by and I never did get to see Before Sunrise until recently…and I was lucky to have this sequel on hand so I could go right from one movie to another.

When Before Sunrise was made I’m not sure any of the people involved even considered that a sequel might be in the cards so it was interesting that stars Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke (The Purge), and director Richard Linklater (Bernie) didn’t feel the story of Celine and Jesse was over and brought the two back together again, nine years later.

Moving the action from a night in Vienna to an afternoon in Paris, this installment finds Jesse (Hawke) on the final stop on his book tour where Celine (Delpy) finds him giving an interview in a bookstore.  His flight back to the US is leaving in a few hours but the two decide to go out for coffee which leads to another chat fest in and around various Paris locales.

Everyone involved has matured in the nine years since the first film was released.  Linklater grew as a filmmaker so he’s able to give the actors enough room to take on long interrupted takes which only serves to enhance to spontaneity of dialogue…that was in fact rigorously scripted and earned Hawke, Delpy, and Linklater an Oscar nomination for adapted screenplay.

The actors have come a long way as well, Delpy in particular.  Gone is the overly fussy actress from the first film and present is a more confident leading lady…perhaps because she’d mastered English more assuredly this time around.  Hawke is no stranger to long monologues or extended dialogue scenes given extensive stage experience.  While Hawke looks about 20 years older in this film, his easy going gift for gab again makes Delpy look even better.

A full 20 minutes shorter than the first film, there’s still a lot of dense material to be had…all of it there to serve the story and free from any flowery exposition that would have read false.  While Celine and Jesse work on writing a new chapter to their tale, audiences are once again swept away thanks to a collective understanding of the intricacies of relationships.  A wise, worthy to be seen film.

Movie Review ~ Before Sunrise

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The Facts
:

Synopsis: A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together.

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Director: Richard Linklater

Rated: R

Running Length: 101 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  I remember when Before Sunrise was released on VHS in 1995.  I was working at Mr. Movies and the one copy we received couldn’t stay on the shelves long enough for me to see what all the fuss was about.  When the film cooled off a bit I was able to take it home and give it a look-see because I was trying to expand my film knowledge outside of the latest action flick from Sylvester Stallone.

Well…I’d like to say I watched Richard Linklater’s film the whole way through but in reality I turned it off about ten minutes in.  I wasn’t engaged, I wasn’t moved, and I wasn’t able to appreciate the simplicity of the structure that Linklater (Bernie) and co-writer Kim Krizan had provided.  I’ve actually tried to watch the film several times over the years but still couldn’t quite get it to stick, stopping each attempt around the same time.

It took my urge to see every Oscar nominated film to get me to circle back to Before Sunrise after all these years.  With the latest installment (Before Midnight) being nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, I knew that to complete my task I’d need to man up and give Before Sunrise another fair shake…and this time it finally got its hooks into me.

While most audiences (like 1995 me) would rather stay home than see a film centered on two people walking around Vienna doing little more than talking about their lives, those that do take the leap will find great rewards.  What struck me so much about the film is that for as dialogue heavy as it is, it’s remarkably lithe and less heavy than you’d think.

Most of the credit has to go to stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (Sinister) who are able to take Linklater and Krizan’s script and make it feel like they’re coming up with the words on the spot.  It’s well-known that Delpy and Hawke helped mold the script and especially Delpy was dissatisfied no credit was given to the actors for what they brought to the finished product.

Hawke is the one that really shines here, though, with Delpy at times feeling like she’s not entirely sure of the words that are coming out of her mouth.  As the two wander around town they meet a few characters that contribute to the plot but aren’t intrusive enough to feel shoe-horned in.  The conversations are generous and interesting with each actor having several moments to shine.

Between a little dip of energy near the end and the aforementioned habit of Delpy feeling a tad out of sorts it’s not a perfect film, however, and I think it runs just ever so slightly on the long side.  Still, it’s heads and tails above most romance films of that era that weren’t equitable in their doling out of smart dialogue to their stars.  Before Sunrise gives both actors their fair share of finely nuanced details, creating a charm hard to duplicate.