Sundance '13: 'Before Midnight' is Endearing, Genuine and Just Perfect
by Ethan Anderton
January 21, 2013
It's a common misfortune that the third installment of any trilogy usually ends up letting down the target fanbase on some level. The Matrix Revolutions, Back to the Future Part III, The Godfather Part III, Beverly Hills Cop III, Spider-Man 3 and more have all been massive disappointments when compared to their predecessors. Therefore, even for an unlikely franchise that started with Before Sunrise in 1995 and continued with Before Sunset in 2004, Richard Linklater's third installment Before Midnight had some high expectations to live up to when it premiered at Sundance last night. However, Before Midnight is absolute perfection, meets and exceeds expectations and is a frontrunner for the best threequel of all time.
Another nine years after Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) had a second rendezvous in France, the once young romantics are now in their 40s, have a home in Paris, but are currently on vacation with their twin daughters in Greece. Jesse has just dropped off his 14-year old son Hank at the airport to fly back home to Chicago where his mother lives, and the conversation that sparks between the onscreen couple is all too familiar. Rich, extensive banter, flawless chemistry and a relationship that feels all too real unfolds in just two singular shots that cover 25 minutes of time. From playful couple insults that turn into serious discussions about marriage to amusingly questionable parenting, the film feels familiar, but still new and it's like we never left these characters dormant for nine years.
The dynamic between Hawke and Delpy has only improved over the years what was already spectacular, and their real age enhances the natural state of their relationship. It's not hard to imagine that these two have had similar conversations with their real-life spouses, and that's what makes this hit so close to home. Whether you had married parents or now have your own kids and deal with the trials and tribulations of being married with a family, this film is real. It's a raw departure from the whisical romance that blossomed in Before Sunrise, and a logical progression of two estranged former lovers in Before Sunset who are now spending their lives together. Hawke and Delpy are easily the most phenomenal onscreen couple ever.
But as with all of these films from Linklater, it's the candid and blunt dialogue that drives every single scene. Whether it's a dinner where Jesse and Celine are talking with their vacation hosts about love or a heated argument in a hotel room that threatens that very love, the words flowing from each character's mouth are flawless and pure. Aaron Sorkin would slowly back out of the room if asked to rewrite this script. It's endearing, provoking, honest and full of heart. That heart isn't always in the right place as some fights between lovers often run off the rails, but the passion between this couple, even in their arguments, is strengthened by sharp writing, of which Delpy and Hawke contributed to extensively with Linklater.
Before Midnight is an immaculate piece of work from a filmmaker who clearly loves his characters and knows them inside and out along with the stars who portray them with such conviction and vigor. Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have come together again for what might be the best romance of all time and it will bring a big smile to your face just before putting tears in your eyes. You'd be hard pressed to find a more astonishing and real representation of love than what is on screen in Before Midnight, an absolute triumph on every level.
Ethan's Sundance Rating: 10 out of 10