Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight is sublime. If you haven’t yet seen it, do take the time to catch up with Jesse and Celine. It is such a thoughtful rendering of the evolution of human relationships, not just for the two lovers we’ve seen over the past twenty years work it out in passion and domesticity but in the peripheral characters as well. What the film reminded me most of was the lost art of conversation.
The film easily took the number one spot on the critics poll, along with the other two that really deserve to be there, like Frances Ha and Stories we Tell (which should be much higher). When I look at this list I am mostly struck by how many of these movies are led by strong female performances, with Julie Delpy as Celine topping the list.
Delpy gives such a fully realized performance as this evolving character who started out so idealistic about love, then discovered, in the second movie, that she wasn’t so great at relationships and finally, in the third movie, is suffocating under the ties that bind – she never wanted to be the housewife, never wanted her life to grind to such a halt. Does love mean less to her now that it did in Before Sunrise? Or does it mean more, now that it’s been stripped of the gloss of idealism? Delpy manages all of this in one performance, and is well matched by the brilliant Ethan Hawke, who never drops the ball as Jesse. He seems to have remembered every detail of the Jesse we knew and brought him back, fully, to the present – now, a man who also believed in the ideal version of love, or maybe just endless amounts of hot sex – or any sex at all. He’s hanging in there though he too seems to want to leave. The smart way way the three of them came to the writing in Before Midnight ought to earn them an Oscar nomination – how they weave in the last ten years without coming right out and saying it.
Before Midnight is the best film of the year so far and will likely retain its luster through Oscar season. It doesn’t need to be oversold. It will be a tough sit for anyone who hasn’t seen the first two movies. When I went to see it, there was an elderly couple sitting next to us. They were perplexed and confused about a movie that seemed to start in the middle of conversation they knew nothing about. “When’s the movie going to start,” said the husband. He repeated the question throughout the movie. And at the end, the wife said “Well, I guess that was it.” Neither of them could tolerate Julie Delpy because they had no idea why she was so angry. That means the studio will have to work hard making sure Academy and industry voters see all three movies. They should see them anyway because they are great, great movies – especially altogether.
The Criticwire Network’s Top 10 Movies of 2013 (So Far)
1. “Before Midnight”
2. “Upstream Color”
3. “Spring Breakers”
4. “Frances Ha”
5. “Stories We Tell”
8. “The Place Beyond the Pines”
9. “Side Effects”
10. “Like Someone in Love”