Before Midnight, the movie

15 Jul

By Molly Wilbanks

I was really into Ethan Hawke back in high school. I watched all of his movies and managed to convince someone, once, that he was my boyfriend. I was pretending to be depressed because he had broken up with me for Uma Thurman (yes, I really did this). I especially loved Before Sunrise, taking the time to pause through that romantic, spontaneous poem that his character writes for Celine, so I could copy it down word for word. Nowadays Hawke sort of reminds me of a drowned rat but I still enjoy watching him act, and I enjoyed this film. After a week or so of trying, the husband and I finally got a chance to watch Before Midnight. This film flows amazingly well considering that it is all dialogue. It’s clear that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have a generous helping of chemistry… I guess three films of playing the same characters may do this to a couple of actors.

While I wasn’t so interested in the philosophical aspect of the conversations, musings on age, marriage, and love, I never got bored during all the talk. By the end of the film, there is a big blow-up and this is where I found myself more interested. The faces get really fun to watch, well, Delpy’s face does. Hawke’s face needs a shave, but still, I watched it. I am endlessly fascinated by the myriad of ways we humans communicate, words, of which seem to be the most ambiguous of all. How much more do we communicate through looks, gestures, and the absence of words? The depths of non-word communication are quite deep, as anyone who has been in a romantic relationship will no doubt agree. The way that we learn loved ones methods of “talking” over the years is also fascinating to me.

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 10.17.08 PM

By Ross Wilbanks

In the film’s looks and gestures hang this emotional lynchpin: Is Jessie serious in trying to convince Celine to move to the United States to be closer with his son? He only declares it once and in defense of Celine’s abashment says, ‘So there’s no way…’

Ethan Hawke’s laid back charm does have a sinister quality. A way of sliding the problem discussed back-at-you. In real life, Men often can work this angle of suggesting something dramatic very casually and, letting the woman react, break down the argument on the side of reason, breaking down confidence and instinct and then, bringing back the issue with an advantageous angle. In real life and in drama too, this happens. A trope used by Spencer Tracy in his movies with Katherine Hepburn is to rile her by this same casual suggestion, allow Hepburn to work up her dramatic temper to a silly boil then steal the scene with a simple gesture coupled with a wily straight face (Bill Cosby added a wrinkle to this face as well). The gesture needs to be simple, the pulling of an ear, rolling of the tongue … nothing too fancy.

Returning to Celine and Jessie with this in mind, I keep sympathies with Celine though she looks on the objective surface very annoyed (annoying); needling, pestering Jessie at all critical points of exchange. When quiet she looks defensive in anticipation. Perhaps she is trying to keep the laid back commando off-balance, but what if she’s simply making too big a deal over this? Maybe Jessie was just trying to work on the problem out loud?

I return to these thoughts each time I think of this film the past two weeks: not the lighting, not a passing reference to the 1953 masterpiece Voyage to Italy, not the director-as-auteur. Some very good film writing has taken these items up, and more, and it’s a nice beat to see a film inspire upon its initial release. With my personal life approaching similar situations as Jessie and Celine’s, I find the intricacies of their arguments more interesting than any of the film’s form.


2 Responses to “Before Midnight, the movie”

  1. Stephanie Dempsey July 24, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    Definitely flashed on VOYAGE TO ITALY several times during this movie. I always love the role the settings play in these movies. I was seriously hungry while watching the dinner scene…the stale popcorn at The Manor was cold, cold comfort.

    • w July 25, 2013 at 2:27 am #

      it’s true, the popcorn was sad in comparison to what was being cooked on screen.

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