- I have not seen the first two “Before” films Linklater, Delpy and Hawke made in 1995 and 2004.
- So why did I attend Before Midnight? It has a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A rating I don’t get. At all. Must be critics who enjoy the gimic of following a relationship over 20-ish years. Cuz taken on its own terms, I think this one is nigh unbearable.
- These are not characters that have been in a serious relationship the last 9 years, with twin girls the last 7 of those. No. These are characters that barely know one another. They philosophize too much. They have too many untold stories about childhood. And that is the biggest problem. The conversations feel off. The revelations wrong. The laundry lists of resentments feel like a forced insertion, not a natural, if regrettable, result of a lengthy relationship and a stressful custody situation. One review I read said something akin to ‘These are not people who have been in a relationship the last nine years. These are people who are catching up after nine years apart.’ I completely agree.
- Hawke and Delpy are both very good, with natural improvisational ease.
- But so many of the conversations last several minutes longer than they ought to. Characters talk too much and do too little, much like they do in another critically acclaimed Linklater film, “Waking Life.”
- Also, neither of these characters is the least bit likeable. Hawk’s Jessie is condescending and cruel. Delpy’s Celine is shrill and self-absorbed. Both look for opportunities to hurt the other at almost every turn. The few moments of sweetness that they share are not enough to erase or make up for the moments of sheer meanness and unfairness. I wanted them both to shut up.
- For all of that, this picture has an interesting concept. Follow a relationship long term and study what actual human relationships are like. How they start (the first film, from 1995). How they mature (second from 2004 and now this one). How they continue. And so I get what Linklater, Hawke and Delpy are doing. Which is the primary reason I don’t give Before Midnight an F.
- But while I get what they’re doing, I think they did it badly. At least if this one is taken as a stand-alone product.
- Final Grade: D-