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Before Midnight Movie Review


When judging a film that is part of a series - in this case a trilogy - you must approach each part as an individual whole. Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight" is the third part of a trilogy that follows a couple and their relationship at different points in time. It opened with "Before Sunrise" and was followed by "Before Sunset". The first two were much hyped and quite a few people liked both of them. I saw neither of the first two, so I came in cold to part three.

The ongoing story focuses on Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy), now a couple with twin daughters who are vacationing at a writer's retreat in Messenia, Greece. Jesse has a son from a previous marriage that he is trying hard to remain close with but he is disconnected from him by space and closeness. This part of the story turns up a couple of times, but it's difficult to feel one way or another about this situation that is supposed to make us feel sorry for Jesse.

Most of "Before Midnight" is the couple talking to each other and their friends that they are staying with in Greece. In one elongated scene, a group of pseudo-intellectuals express deep thoughts to each other while exchanging knowing looks that confirm to all of them that they sure are bright and wise, all while remaining calm and cheerful. It's like watching a group of pretentious blowhards ramble on about the meaning of life. Eventually, and mercifully, the scene ends, but not before you hope that someone walks in and picks one of them and shakes them out of their self-congratulatory grandeur. The dialog is rapid-fire pseudo-clever.

Then it's time for our couple to go for a walk before heading back to their hotel. This entire time is spent with their analyzing whether or not they are happy. They recount their time together, test each other's love, make love, have a tiff, and talk about everything they have just experienced.

I love films made for adults, partially because there are so few of them. Linklater and everyone else concerned here are clearly trying to create real adults. There may indeed be adults like these. Actually, I know there are. I've been stuck among them on a few horrific occasions. At one point while watching, I found my mind wandering to the way Woody Allen skewered people just like these in some of his best work. That might have been the only time I smiled while watching.

"Before Midnight" is nicely shot and despite all of my whining, not particularly boring, at least not through its entirety. However, it is tiresome and groan-worthy. Hawke and Delpy appear to believe they are doing something important here. Whether that is good acting or whether they really believe that is impossible to be sure of. In the end it really doesn't matter, because we are the ones that have to watch it. On second thought you don't have to watch it.

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