Thursday, May 30, 2013

Before Midnight

This is it. The last gulp of indie-movie fresh air before diving into the pressure-filled depths of the summer blockbuster season.

Now I like those depths, by and large, but I also like a little fresh air.

And I love the preceding two movies in this cycle, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

The creative participants, director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, have joked that theirs is the lowest-grossing trilogy in film history. Which might be correct, but the ultra low-cost movies -- each consists of an extended conversation between Hawke and Delpy -- have made money for everyone involved, and, oh yeah, they've been a joy to watch.

The first movie took place in 1995, when the actors and their characters, both in their early twenties, encountered each other on a train in France. The next showed us their reunion in 2005, and the current 2013 film shows them as a married couple with a pair of twin girls.


The action begins with Hawke dropping off his teenaged son at the airport. The boy's mom lives in Chicago, and Hawke is getting the itch to relocate there in order to be closer to his son.

This creates the first bout of friction with Delpy, who adamantly does not want to find herself "buying peanut butter in a grocery store in Chicago," but it's not the last.

Before Midnight is filled with conflict, especially in the opening and closing sequences of the film. The marriage between Hawke and Delpy is not a fairy-tale match. It's real and difficult and draining and sometimes nasty.

But there's also love and laughing, and lots of philosophizing.

The basic idea behind these movies is to capture the feeling of a relationship in its various stages. The romance of early love, the moment of commitment, and then the results of that commitment.

I think all the movies are great. The fact that Hawke is an American and Delpy a Frenchwoman -- and that both of them co-write the scripts with Linklater -- results in a tension not just between individuals, or genders, but cultures. This generates one of the best dynamics you can get in fiction: legitimate conflict between characters who love each other.

We're not going to see much of that over the next three months, but Before Midnight has made it a little easier to get through the next three months with sanity intact.

Thanks, Before Midnight!

SCORE

How Accomplished: 76/100

How Much I Enjoyed: 79/100

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