Monday, January 20, 2014

BEFORE MIDNIGHT - 1 nomination

BEFORE MIDNIGHT - 1 nomination

Writing - Adapted Screenplay - Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke

Before Midnight is the third installment in the love story of Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke).  In the first, Before Sunrise (1995) we see them meet on a train and they talk all night on that best first date you ever have, but in this case, knowing that they will likely never meet again when that dates concludes, and at the time they make a point to leave the memory intact and not exchange contact information.  Before Sunset (2004) has them reuniting in Paris where Jesse is on the last stop of his book tour, his book lovingly telling the story of that romantic night a decade before.

In this installment, they have finally married and had adorable twin daughters.  The movie begins with Jesse saying goodbye to his son (from a previous marriage) who is returning home to the United States from Greece where they are all vacationing, now that Celine and Jesse permanently live in Paris.  His divorce is clearly not amicable, but his relationship with his son is good.

While everything appears to have "all worked out in the end," we come to see a couple struggling with the challenges of every day marriage, keeping a relationship intact, and dealing with the difficulty of being away from a child from a previous marriage who lives on a different continent, not to mention the tricky nature of handling an embittered and difficult ex-spouse.  

Like the other two films in the trilogy, the film relies heavily on very tight dialogue.  It's real, we know these people.  Some of us are these people.  It's frustrating because they clearly love each other, clearly want to be together, but feel under-appreciated, taken for granted, and have begun the tally of who-does-what-for-whom and who-does-more-around-here portion of the relationship.  It's uncomfortable when Celine casually observes that Jesse's sadness and frustration not being near his son marks the beginning of the end of the relationship; the place where she predicts his inevitable resentment of her which will erode the fabric of their marriage.  At this point I thought, wow, this woman is just a shit-starter, even though I know her character to be better than that from the prior films.

Here's the good news and the bad news of Before Midnight.  It's a little bit like sitting next to a couple who is arguing, but you're not a part of the conversation.  You take sides, you evaluate who's right, and sometimes all you want to do is turn to them and say, "Shut up and quit your damn whining."  On the other hand, the conversation is so real and so well written that you can't help but be engaged by it, to sit all the way through and see what the consequences of a long, real conversation are when taken as a break from the day to day management of a marriage that can be boiled down to companionship and child rearing.

It's worth seeing, especially since you can watch it on DVD and take a break when you're ready to slap them and come back when you're ready to see what happens.  The screenplay nomination is deserved because this movie doesn't rely on anything but the dialogue to make its point.  There are no tricks, no effects, no gimmicks.  It's My Dinner with Andre with people who are not as annoying with the gorgeous backdrop of Greece behind it.  My favorite quote from the film also summarizes its point, "If you want love, then this is it.  This is real life.  It's not perfect, but it's real."

Haven't seen the film?
Watch the Before Midnight Movie Trailer

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