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Film Review: Trilogy final confronts crazy love

May 31, 2013|By Andy Klein
  • Left to Right: Charlotte Prior as Nina, Jennifer Prior as Ella and Julie Delpy as Celine in "Before Midnight."
Left to Right: Charlotte Prior as Nina, Jennifer Prior… (Courtesy of Sony…)

"Before Midnight" may be the last entry in Richard Linklater's Celine and Jesse trilogy — if it's not, then the word "trilogy" seems terribly inapt — which started in 1995 with "Before Sunrise" and continued with "Before Sunset" in 2004. The first film was intended as a one-shot (despite a very sequel-friendly ending); and the ending of the second film brought things full-circle in a satisfyingly final way. But the characters keep calling back their creators.

Perhaps there will be more episodes: So far the films have been separated by nine years each time; another four films would bring the list to seven (almost as nice a number as three); the stars, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, each probably have another 36 years in them, though Linklater would be pushing 90. And the movies are so inexpensive to make that it would only require a devoted, cult-size following to keep them afloat financially.

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The script for "Before Sunrise" was written by Linklater and Kim Krizan, but according to Delpy, she and Hawke rewrote more than half of it as they settled into their characters. For the middle film (and the new one), Linklater, Hawke and Delpy wrote and rewrote each other in an ongoing process over a few years.

In 1995, Jesse (Hawke) was an American who meets Julie (Delpy) on his last night in Paris. They walk and they talk and, in the most purely romantic way, fall in love. They arrange to meet again, and we are left wondering if one or both will chicken out. It's a wonderfully open ending.

In the 2004 entry, we find that there was a screwup. Jesse, who by now has a wife and a kid, shows up in Paris to promote his first novel, which is, naturally, based on his one-night encounter with Celine. Celine shows up at a signing. They figure out why their scheduled reunion went awry; they walk and talk again; they realize that their romance is battered but unfaded.

In "Before Midnight," we join them on the last day of a Greek holiday with their seraphic-looking twins; Jesse is still fighting battles with his ex-wife and feeling guilty over his abandonment of his son. For much of the first third, they drive and talk this third includes a nearly continuous 14-minute take that is broken up just once, by a cutaway.

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