Film review: ‘Before Midnight’ is a devastating threequel

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy once again reprise their roles as lovers Jesse and Celine in "Before Midnight" Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy once again reprise their roles as lovers Jesse and Celine in “Before Midnight”
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

‘Before Midnight’
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Rating: R
5 (out of 5) Globes

Every seven years, filmmaker Michael Apted logs another entry in his “Up” documentary series, which has caught up with the same group of people since they were seven years old. The passing of time is seen in horrifying action, as dreams go up in smoke, relationships begin and die, youth decays into lumpy middle age. (“56 Up” came out earlier this year.) Provided he keeps at it, director Richard Linklater appears to be doing the same thing, only with fictional — but, in a sense, no less real — characters. In 1995’s “Before Sunrise,” Gen-X twentysomethings Celine and Jesse (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) met cute on the Eurorail, talked while strolling Vienna and engaged in hot outdoor sex (twice). They didn’t reconnect until 2004’s “Before Sunset.” The new “Before Midnight” reveals they stayed together since then, not marrying but still popping out twins. Toss in Jesse’s son from a marriage that ended apparently quite terribly, and the two have plenty to worry about — and little time to talk.

As fitting a film about early middle age, “Midnight” breaks from tradition, chiefly by keeping our leads surrounded by others for longer than expected. On a trip in symbolically bankrupt (but beautiful) Greece, they spend the first half hanging with others. Celine and Jesse only get alone time via an awkwardly scheduled “date night.” Where “Sunset” saw them trying to relive the glories of “Sunrise”’s to-them-historic night, “Midnight” finds them weary, burdened by all the anxieties, resentments and various pieces of baggage accrued by two people who’ve spent years, not just a night or two, together. They’ve had plenty of time to see past the idealism, to dwell on the things that bug them, or at least bury aggressions down deep, to emerge at the worst/best moment.

It would be cruel to say exactly where this goes, but one predictable development is how the series has aged and transformed as deeply as the “Up” series. Like those, it’s become a portrait of the apathetic nature of time and how it runs roughshod over hopes and dreams. No longer able to idealize each other from afar, our once-doe-eyed lovers are confronted with the very real possibility that their affections were misplaced, combined with a fear of realizing this mistake in early middle age. As Jesse wearily clutches on to remaining sparks, Celine relentlessly points out the cracks he’s ignoring, their row becoming a trial that pits delusional romanticism against cold rationality. (Delpy has never been more hilariously caustic, which is saying something.) Our protagonists openly cite Roberto Rossellini’s “Voyage to Italy,” also about a couple bickering while on vacation. Hopefully it’s not sacrilege to confess this is the more accomplished, more devastating, more knowing look at a couple on the verge of termination but, perhaps tragically, unable to stay apart.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

'Five Star': A coming-of-age story about Brooklyn's gang…

'Five Star' tells a coming-of-age story about Brooklyn's gang culture at the Tribeca Film Festival.

National

New statue of Penn State's Paterno set for…

By David DeKokHARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Fundraising for a new statue depicting Joe Paterno "as the man he was and not Joe the football coach"…

Local

NYPD detective shoots partner: DA

A New York City Police detective was arrested early Thursday and charged with driving under the influence while on the clock.

Local

Judge strikes down NY limits on donations to…

A federal judge on Thursday reluctantly struck down New York's limits on donations to independent political action committees as unconstitutional, potentially ushering in a new…

Music

Championship of Collegiate a Cappella: Students who are…

Tickets to this Saturday’s International Championship of Collegiate a Cappella reportedly sold out within 11 hours of going on sale.

Music

M.I.A. talks 'Matangi,' divinity, spontaneity and holograms

"There’s pressure for me to become a theatrical production like 'Glee,' or something" says M.I.A., "It’s like, 'the pressure’s on, bitches.'"

Movies

Tribeca: 'Goodbye to All That' star Paul Schneider…

Paul Schneider talks about his new film "Goodbye to All That," not acting too much and how he'd rather indulge in simple pleasures than play the scene.

The Word

Taylor Swift battles paparazzi daily at Tribeca penthouse

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.

NHL

Rangers unlikely to change lineup, Steve Mason in…

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault wouldn't say much, but don't expect any lineup changes.

NBA

Jason Collins named to Time's 100 Most Influential…

Jason Collins was named to the list after coming out as the first openly gay player to appear in an NBA game.

NBA

Nets excited for Brooklyn fans to bring the…

Kevin Garnett has definitely used profanity while trash talking or in practices, but never to describe an entire borough.

NHL

Rangers turn up shot blocking in Game 3…

Game 3 of the Rangers-Flyers opneing round series was not a return to John Tortorella hockey.

Parenting

New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.

Tech

From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.

Style

Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.

Style

MAC & Proenza Schouler collection unveiled

MAC Cosmetics is releasing a new collection with Proenza Schouler.