I have seen few movies in recent memory that were more clearly and appropriately a duet piece. Imagine: a movie about two people (Jesse and Celine) whose running conversation together make up 90% of the story. What a concept! How foreign to everything screenwriters learn is necessary to make a good movie. Two talking heads going at it non-stop. But such heads, such conversation and, most importantly, such chemistry.
True “chemistry” between actors is an overly-used adjective and, to my mind, a much rarer phenomenon than some critics would have us believe. In a movie like Before Midnight, the chemistry threatens to boil over.
Fans of this trilogy of movies: first, Before Sunrise, then Before Sunset, and now Before Midnight, will know that the chemistry between Hawke and Delpy seems to have been present from their first moments together on film. But now it has reached an even higher level. Perhaps a more ‘mature’ level would be a better way of expressing it. For now, instead of young starry-eyed lovers meeting on a train, and impulsively deciding to get off together in Vienna, we meet a middle-aged couple, driving home from a Greek regional airport with two blond-haired daughters sleeping in the back seat of their car.
If there is a theme to Before Midnight, it has to do with exploring the nature of marriage and long-term relationships. Is a long-term relationship even possible? Three different couples, varying in age, give interesting answers to this question and the question, as posed, begins to haunt our protagonists as well. As they walk together down the road to a hotel, Celine asks, “if you were to meet me on that train today, for the first time, would you ask me get off with you?” It’s not a question Jesse is keen to answer but, when pushed, he answers in the affirmative. Delpy’s character is skeptical, and her fiery French temper flares. What should have been a very romantic evening together quickly turns into a no-holds-barred fight.
Without wanting to give away too much, I am happy to report, that under the influence of the Greek seaside, a glass of wine, and a deep commitment to the "chemistry" that has always defined their relationship, a warm light shines at the end of the tunnel.
Many viewers must be wondering if they can expect yet another movie in the series, nine of ten years down the road. What would this one be called? Before Hip Replacement?