At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Before Midnight “2013”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Before Midnight “2013”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Romantic Drama/ Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Prior, Charlotte Prior, Xenia Kalogeropoulou, Walter Lassally, Ariane Labed, Yiannis Papadopoulos, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Panos Koronis/Runtime: 109 minutes

You cannot possibly imagine my relief and happiness movie lovers when just when it really started to look like the world of movie magic has transformed into no more and no less than either a playscape for CGI fanatics or an estate for the showcasing of the latest animated characters and/or superheroics constructed around the occasional human being, a slice of cinematic pie in the vein of Before Midnight comes into the world as a loving and friendly reminder to movie lovers all over of just what movie magic can truly pull off to say nothing of the feelings that it can produce, and the truly genuine movie viewing experience it can give to each and every one of us. Yes movies like the ones found in the MCU, or Transformers might get all the attention, earn the love and admiration of the studios’ advertising departments, and sell an insane number of tickets on screens all over the nation and don’t even get me started on the merchandising tie-ins. I mean no matter where you look these are the slices of cinematic pie that are literally everywhere (even on bags of Doritos….I mean seriously?). If you are able to get through this mist however, I think you will be able to uncover that the true magic of film as a truly special art form; one that is blessed with the gift of being able to immerse itself into the nitty gritty of the characters at the heart of their stories and showcase them not just in a riveting manner, but in a realistic one as well. A realism that is so strong incidentally that even the simple act of watching these characters interact with the world around them let alone each other is a truly unnerving thing to behold with the caveat being that it is only unsettling because the movie has managed to transcend the realm of fiction and made you believe that you are actually following real people and events rather than creations of a truly gifted mind. To that end, it should be noted that iconic indie film helmer Richard Linklater is one who has managed to achieve quite a lot in this category of movie magic courtesy of a series of movies that he has done known as the “Before….” films which revolve around the journey that a pair of people’s lives and the love they have for each other go on starting in 1995, meeting again in 2004, and now fully enwrapped in love’s embrace in 2013. Suffice it to say that, much in the same vein as the first two movies in this series from 1995 and 2004 respectively, Before Midnight really truly is one of the most beautiful slices of cinematic pie that I have had the good and immense fortune of watching. No it might not be every movie goer’s distinct cup of tea, but for those who are willing to give it a shot I can promise you a movie going experience that is not only more rewarding, but also one that functions as a showcase for what cinema was and what it can still be if the studios were to actually do something other than the grandiose, though not always in terms of quality, slices of cinematic pie that seemingly permeate the calendar and movie going landscape darn near every single year.

The plot is as follows: Playing out in real time, Before Midnight takes place 9 years after the rivetingly ambiguous conclusion to Before Sunset from 2004 as we see that in the time since we’ve been gone, Jesse is now a famous and quite successful writer who, when our story begins, is saying bye to his son Hank in the aftermath of spending the summer with him in the lovely country of Greece. Upon seeing him to his plane at the airport, he returns to his lady love Celine, who we learn he chose to be with, and their twin daughters for an odyssey to see some compatriots out in the country. As they head to their destination, we see our dynamic duo discuss both their love for each other and various facets of their lives at this point in time key among them Celine getting a new and exciting opportunity at a career in France and Jesse wanting to move the family to Chicago in order to be closer to his son. Suffice it to say that it quickly starts becoming obvious that their relationship is hitting a few bumps in the road, but especially when Céline starts throwing out nods that it might be in a wee bit of trouble. Despite these storm clouds on the horizon however, we see our wonderful couple engage in not just back and forth of a superficial nature, but also in quite immersive and riveting discussion with both their compatriots and especially each other even as the bond that they share seems to be headed to a perilous fork in the proverbial road that has the potential to change their dynamic with each other forever…

Now there really truly is something quite astonishing in how this slice of cinematic pie manages to, with little to no effort, bring the relationship between Jesse and Céline to life in the way that it does. Yes it may all be built off the back of what came before in the first two movies, but there is no denying that this dynamic duo feels like real people especially when we get information about how their lives have been going as the narrative goes along. Not just in what is said, but in the tone in which they say it, the ways that they glance at each other, through the choice of words they do so, and through a whole host of idiosyncrasies that show where they’ve been as a couple, where they are going, and what eventually might become of them and their relationship as well. To that end, it should be noted that Hawke and Delpy are not simply acting in this movie. Instead, I would like to argue that they manage to become the characters to the point that it feels like Hawke and Delpy have vanished and Jesse and Céline have taken their place. Now I should let you know that this slice of cinematic pie is one that is mostly made up of at least a trinity of lengthy dialogues with the first in a vehicle, the second with a group of friends, and the third in a room at a hotel. Yes there are moments sandwiched in as well, but it is this trinity that is by and large the material of this film. Yet the reason I bring these up to you dear reader is because I would just like to point out how phenomenal this trinity of moments are not only in how realistic they appear, but also how realistic the dialogue and the performances in these moments are as well.  Suffice it to say then that Before Midnight might just be one of the most realistic slices of cinematic pie that I have had the pleasure of seeing in quite a long time and the world of movie magic is all the better for it.

Now it should be noted that although Before Midnight is a slice of cinematic pie that manages to assume a narrative structure that makes it feel more like a play on Broadway due to, despite a tempo to the narrative at the heart of the story, not giving much choice in regards to locales or just how many characters are ultimately involved in the story itself, this is still a slice of cinematic pie that manages to leave that vibe in its rear view mirror and instead operates more like a voyeuristic slice of cinematic pie especially when taking into account how true to life the performances given by Hawke and Delpy truly are. Indeed in a weird way this movie feels like a Woody Allen film if it didn’t have the degrees of whimsy and buoyancy that Allen typically strives to insert into his movies. Rather, film helmer Richard Linklater chooses to sit back, let his actors do their thing, and simply watch and record them with the camera. I mean aside from a rudimentary degree of spit and polish from a tech perspective, the film is really aiming to do no more and no less than just showcase this moment in time in the lives of these characters for the viewing audience. Indeed this is a slice of cinematic pie that is constructed darn near entirely on the strength of the narrative and the performers acting out said narrative. Thus it is really a testament to how powerful both the performances and the narrative are that this movie not only works as well as it does, but also in how completely captures your attention on the level that it does. Thus take heart everyone for it seems that real life, no matter how hard it can and often does become, once more is the best foundation to build a movie off of and in the hands of a film helmer like Linklater and the one-two punch that is Hawke and Delpy, it can also be said that how it is depicted in movies as well simply doesn’t get any finer than this.

All in all I can honestly say beyond any and all doubt in my mind that Before Midnight really truly is a distinct and truly magical slice of movie magic that is a true throwback to when making movie magic was a lot more simple albeit being given a slight updating courtesy of modern day people in modern day situations. Suffice it to say then that it is simple as a slice of cinematic pie, complex in regards to the dynamic duo at the heart of the story, but both are amazingly very well-done. Indeed the performances are top-flight in every sense of the word, the narrative quite emotional but no less arresting in a “true to life” manner and the helmsmanship restrained and dependable in all the best ways. Yes I guess I should let you know that this slice of cinematic pie is in no way, shape, form, or fashion a film for an audience that wishes to see massive explosions, grandiose special effects, or whimsical animated creations to name but a few items. If however you are a lover of cinema who has a fondness for movies that are elegant and true to life then I think it is safe to say that there aren’t that many movies that manage to nail that particular format in the same way that this one is able to and then some. On a scale of 1-5 I give Before Midnight “2013” a solid 4.5 out of 5.