Mark Metcalf
“Before Midnight”

Romantic, dramatic people with time on their hands

After another nine years, filmmaker Richard Linklater drops in again on a beautiful couple as they work out their romantic drama -- this time in sun-swept, romantic Greece.

By - Jun 14th, 2013 04:00 am
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Julie Delpy as Celine and Ethan Hawke as Jesse in “Before Midnight.” Photo by Despina Spyrou, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and now, Before Midnight.

Michael Apted made a film in 1964 called 7 Up.  He simply interviewed a group of seven year old British children. He interviewed them again every year since then. Last year, Apted released 56 Up.

In the Before… series of movies, filmmaker Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy appear to be involved in the fictional, somewhat romanticized and adult equivalent of Apted’s documentary sequence.

Eighteen years ago, in Before Sunrise, two young people met on a train, fell in love, and finally separated while walking and talking through Paris. Nine years later, in Before Sunset, they sought each other out and reunited, further complicating their lives as they tried to simplify their spirits.

Now, after another nine years, comes Before Midnight.  They are living together successfully, parents of twin girls, and on a family holiday in Greece.  The film opens as Jesse, Hawke’s character, puts his son from a previous complication on a plane back to the States.

Left to Right: Charlotte Prior as Nina, Jennifer Prior as Ella and Julie Delpy as Celine Photo by Despina Spyrou, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Left to Right: Charlotte Prior as Nina, Jennifer Prior as Ella and Julie Delpy as Celine Photo by Despina Spyrou, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The entire film is a series of conversations.  Some of them you wish you could dive right into: about art, and life, purpose, religion, politics, destiny, and sex … and love.  To paraphrase Gene Hackman in a film called Night Moves, watching a movie like this is like watching paint dry.  I happen to like watching paint dry when it’s good paint, and much of Before Midnight is very good paint.

Delpy handles it all well and Hawke, to varying degrees, is authentic, believable, and very natural.  In the one group conversation — around food of course, they are in Europe, after all – their friends are spectacular, fascinating, down-to-earth and smart.  And, to one degree or another, very much in love and lust without being all Hallmark greeting card about it – they are in Europe, after all.

The other conversations, the ones between Delpy and Hawke’s Celine and Jesse,  remind you of the many endless and elliptical conversations with wives or lovers or both you probably have had over the years. Those conversations are difficult to watch, but only because they are so true and so painful.  When the parties in a relationship go through the sorting-out stages, the should-we/can-we go on? stages, it’s tough.  And Linklater, Delpy and Hawke — they all take a writer’s credit — are spot on.  Delpy walks out of the room and I wanted to walk out with her. But I knew she’d come back, and she does.

If the purpose of drama, as Hamlet says, is to “hold the mirror up to nature,” then Before Midnight fulfills this purpose.  It is, however, a rarefied, very specific nature. Within this comfortable economic preserve, these people live what might be considered protected lives.  But even with their narcissism, it’s fun to hang out with them.

Before Midnight opens Friday, June 14 at the Oriental Theater on Farwell.

Categories: Movies

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