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Friday, April 19, 2013

BEFORE MIDNIGHT - Tribeca Film Festival 2013 Review

Before Midnight
2013, 108 minutes
Rated R for sexual content/nudity and language

Review by Joshua Handler

Sony Pictures Classics
Many film trilogies falter in their third installments (X-Men, Alien), but some manage to excel (Toy Story, The Lord of the Rings).  The Before Sunrise Trilogy started in 1995 and every nine years we get a new film.  The first film, Before Sunrise, is a masterpiece of romantic cinema.  The second film, Before Sunset, is even better due to its maturity and some absolutely stunning sequences (the staircase sequence at the end is one of the greatest sequences in the history of cinema).  The third, and presumably final film Before Midnight is the best of the three.  It closes off what will go down in film history as one of the greatest trilogies of all time.  In my mind, the only trilogy that even comes near it is the epic Lord of the Rings Trilogy which are innovative, large-scale films that are near perfect.  

When it was announced that Before Midnight was being made, I was very skeptical, as it simply seemed like co-writer/director Richard Linklater and co-writers/stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke just felt like making another movie.  Before Sunset ended on a beautifully ambiguous note, and the announcement of a third film threatened to ruin the magic of that ending.  But somehow, Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy managed to make a film so haunting, so beautiful, and so all-around perfect that they managed to top themselves.

In this film, the threat of Jesse and Celine (Hawke and Delpy, respectively) not ending up together is gone.  In Before Midnight, they are married, which allows the film to be a meditation on marriage, aging, and how to keep a long-term relationship alive.  We find out that Jesse divorced his wife and started a family with Celine in Europe.  Jesse's son comes to visit every summer.  At the beginning of the film, Jesse's son leaves Athens (Jesse and Celine's summer destination), and Jesse and Celine drive back home to their place outside of Athens.  This drive is shown in very long takes and the two converse the whole time while their kids are asleep in the back seat.  The conversations that Jesse and Celine have in these films are so fascinating because it is evident that Hawke and Delpy wrote much of their dialogue from their own lives.  While that sounds mundane and boring, and it would be in different hands, Delpy and Hawke make the conversations energetic and interesting because of their magnetic personalities and chemistry.

The Before Sunrise Trilogy, among many other things, is so great because of the chemistry between its two leads.  There have been rare instances where I have forgotten that two actors weren't really married or dating in a movie due to great chemistry (look at Once or Adam's Rib), but never has a movie ever reached the level that this trilogy has.  Hawke and Delpy seem to be completely in tune with each others thoughts and actions and literally seem like they could finish each others' sentences.  Nothing feels forced and it never seems like they are reading dialogue (some of it may have been improvised).  Both actors are completely charming and are unafraid to mine their characters' emotional depths.  Now that Jesse and Celine are married, they are older and wiser, but because of this, they begin to question whether their marriage will last.  This leads to a deep exploration of marriage and what it takes to keep one strong.

Linklater is the perfect director to direct a film like this, as he is completely dedicated to the series (he has co-written and directed all three over the course of 18 years) and knows that he needs to let the actors act and not get in their way.  While Before Midnight is immaculately framed, is not what anyone would traditionally call a technical marvel, but that doesn't matter and is a testament to Linklater's immense directorial skill.  By using as little editing as possible and showing most key conversations in long takes, he emphasizes the hypnotic quality of the conversations and allows the audience to let the conversation flow and sink in.

Overall, Before Midnight is a masterpiece of modern cinema and the best film I have had the privilege of viewing this year.  It is warm, funny, and lovely; a pure love story that is realistic and engaging.  It is the best of the trilogy and was a pleasure to watch from beginning to end.

A note: DO NOT see this movie if you have not seen Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.  Unlike some trilogies where one can pick up in the middle, this is one where each film builds upon the one before it, creating a perfect whole.

Tickets for the Tribeca Film Festival screenings of this film can be purchased HERE.


1 comment:

  1. The reason this film will hold your attention for two hours is because of the natural dialogue between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.