Linklater finishes trilogy

Sackville Film Society screens Before Midnight.

Watching Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight was a bewildering experience. The first half of the movie was quite enjoyable. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy had incredible onscreen chemistry. Their conversations about family, friends, and life in general felt like conversations that real people would have. This was both the movie’s greatest strength as well as its biggest weakness.

In talking about the plot of Before Midnight, I would be remiss not to mention the other movies in this series. This is the third of Richard Linklater’s film trilogy, focusing on Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy). The first film, Before Sunrise, was set in Vienna in 1994 and focused on Jesse and Celine’s first encounter. They meet on a train and, throwing caution to the wind, decide to leave and explore the city together. After their one night in Vienna, the two go their separate ways. The second film of the series, Before Sunset, takes place in Paris in 2004. Jesse has written a novel about his experience in Vienna with Celine and is on a book tour. Celine, having read the book and living in Paris, tracks him down, and the two reunite and stay together. Before Midnight takes place in 2013, and seems to be the culmination of the couple’s twenty-year journey. The film finds Jesse and Celine, now in their forties with children, on vacation in Greece. Despite the long history of these movies, seeing the first two is not a prerequisite to enjoying Before Midnight, though it wouldn’t hurt.

The first half of the film was great. The scenery was breathtaking and the acting was energetic and believable. As I said before, Hawke and Delpy had tremendous chemistry; they were very believable as a couple who had been together for years. The dialogue was interesting and well acted by not only Hawke and Delpy, but by the supporting cast as well. There is a particularly good example of this taking place at a dinner table, where characters talk at length about technology, writing, and how the various couples at the table met, among other things. This conversation was easily the strongest scene in the film.

The film moved along at a decent pace from one light-hearted conversation to the next until halfway through, when everything changed. A phone rings and the entire tone of the movie shifted. What followed is what felt like half an hour of arguing and bickering. To Hawke and Delpy’s credit, the arguments of Celine and Jesse felt very real, much like their earlier conversations. It is due to this realness, however, that the arguments were wholly unpleasant to watch.

Before Midnight was a good movie; in fact, the first half was great. The energetic and funny dialogue characteristic of the first half (and the other two movies, for that matter) eventually fell away to make room for what felt like forty minutes of two forty-somethings screaming at each other about how their lives are frustrating and whose fault it is. Nobody really wanted to see that.

Sam Moore is a third year student of English and History. He likes games and movies.

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