I suspected this movie was going to be a disaster, but I simply could not not watch it.
It was a disaster.
I think a major flaw is the director sets it up wrong. We want to know what has happened between Jesse and Celine in nine years because they are our friends. Instead the movie opens with a painfully long on-the-road chatter (which is beautifully orchestrated, and totally weird) with minimal information.
Then the audience is dealt an inane, uncomfortable dinner conversation on love and sex. Who talks like that anyway? Vacationing writers? I’m surprised no one chokes on their Greek salad after a few minutes of such contrived dialogue.
After almost an hour, the movie finally lets the audience into some of the important stuff (you know, like custody battle, birth, jobs…) in the climatic hotel room fight scene. But by that time we’ve already declared the movie sucks and are emotionally detached.
“Sunrise” and “Sunset” were two momentous days in Jesse and Celine’s lives. This time around…nothing happens. They should've chosen a more significant day as the backdrop, like when Jesse really has to decide moving to Chicago. Or maybe the movie is a symbolism that middle age is inevitably a letdown. Maybe the joke is on us.
Nevertheless, I still like Jesse and Celine, even though Celine is crazier, and Jesse is, unexplainably, more vulgar than his twenty-something self. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy still possess the skill and chemistry to make them appealing. I just wish they were given better material to work with.
In 1995, I could only daydream about a one night tryst with an exotic girl in a beautiful European city. In 2004, I could not contemplate what marriage was like. Now in fatherhood, it feels like I finally caught up with Jesse in early mid-life crises. These three semi-anthropological movies span my entire adulthood. There‘s no way to watch it without getting nostalgic, no matter how terrible it is.
“Before Midnight” is more of a footnote than a real movie. You have to see the previous two films to understand it. The wise thing to do was not making it a trilogy. They had the perfect ending filled with Patsy Cline nine years ago. Now it’s all ruined, and I so want them to make it up in 2022.