Mike Kueber's Blog

October 25, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies #84 – Before Midnight

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 1:05 am
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Two of my favorite movies in the past few years were Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), so you can imagine how excited I was to learn that Before Midnight was coming out in 2013.  Because its visit to the Bijou Theatre in San Antonio was so brief, I missed it, but this week it was released by Netflix by DVD, and it was worth the wait.

Before Sunrise was about a young American guy (Ethan Hawke) who met a young French girl (Julie Delphy) on train from Hungary to France.  The entire movie consists of their talking about life while on the train for a few hours and then during a one-night layover in Vienna.  When they part in Vienna the next day, they make some vague plans for a shared future.

Before Sunset picks up the story nine years later, and the entire movie consists of these two characters for 90 minutes catching up with each other and resuming their philosophical conversation.  The movie ends with us not knowing whether the characters would part like they did in Before Sunrise or stay together.

Before Midnight (2013) picks up the story nine years later.  The first part of the movie starts like the other two, with Hawke and Delphy having the same sort of philosophical conversation, but it doesn’t ring true because, as we quickly learn, they’ve been together since Before Sunset, and old couples shouldn’t sound so freshly interested in each other’s thoughts.  In the middle part of the movie, some additional characters are allowed into the conversation, and their conversation sounds pretentious and almost too articulate (sort of like Aaron Sorkin writing West Wing) until you learn that the additions are literary types.

But the end of the movie saves everything.  Instead of making eloquent speeches about the meaning of life, Hawke and Delphy engage in a real conversation about their marriage and the concomitant accommodations.  From my perspective, Hawke sounds so much like me and Delphy communicates like several women I have been close to.  Mars and Venus.

Before Midnight was a low-budget movie made in 15 days for $3 million, and grossed $20 million.  As with its two predecessors, the Rotten Tomato critics loved it (98%); the audience not as much (87%).  As with its two predecessors, I give it four stars out of four.  And when the year 2022 approaches, I will be hounding Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater, Hawke, and Delphy for another movie.

April 8, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #21 – Before Sunrise

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 4:11 pm
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After it prematurely delivered the sequel Before Sunset (2004) earlier this week, Netflix finally got around to delivering the original Before Sunset (1995).  As I suggested in my posting on Before Sunset, the sequel was great, so I couldn’t wait to see the original.  I wasn’t disappointed. 

Before Sunrise begins with young American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) on a train to Vienna to catch a plane back to America.  He had been visiting his girlfriend in Spain, where he learned that she was no longer that into him and didn’t appreciate his company.  While on the train, Jesse strikes up a conversation with a pretty young French woman Celine (Julie Delphy), who was returning to France after visiting her ailing grandmother in Budapest. 

As with Before Sunset, Before Sunrise consists entirely these two characters engaged in a philosophical conversation.  Whereas Before Sunset takes place in the span of less than two hours, Before Sunset actually lasts from one afternoon to the next morning, when Jesse has to catch a plane back to America.

The philosophy discussed by the two characters isn’t particularly deep or profound, although I was impressed with Jesse’s comment that the dumpee wants to think that the dumper is hurting, too, but his personal experience as a dumper informed him that the dumpers have no pain and little empathy because they have already moved on.  Been there.  I was also impressed by Celine’s comment about all her former boyfriends who went on to better relationships that ended in marriages.  Celine said she was sick of hearing from these guys that she had helped them learn how to love better.  Been there.  That’s like putting up with a defect in your house for years and then, after you decide to sell the house, you fix the defect for the benefit of the new buyer.  Why didn’t you fix it up in time to enjoy the change yourself?

What makes the Jesse/Celine philosophical discussion special is that the characters connect.  They both are vaguely sad individuals who have a deep interest in sharing their innermost thoughts, and they have finally found a kindred spirit who both gives and receives on the same level of undertanding and appreciation.

As I mentioned in my previous blog posting, the couple at the end of the movie promised to get back together in Vienna in six months, but that did not happen.  That is the only unrealistic thing about the sequel.  With the love that these two individuals developed in less than 24 hours, there would have been nothing that would have prevented their reunion in Vienna.  (Oops, I forgot the truism that in the beginning it is infatuation, not love, that exists between two souls.  Now I’m not so sure about that.)

Before Sunrise was written and directed by Richard Linklater, a Texas filmmaker who is famous for one-day movies like these, plus Slacker and Dazed & Confused.  Both the Sunrise and Sunset movies were excellently received by critics and audiences.  Although Before Sunrise was slightly better received by both, I reverse the order and slightly prefer Before Sunset.  Four stars.

April 1, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #20 – Before Sunset

Filed under: Movie reviews,Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 7:29 pm
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Before Sunset (2004) was a movie recommended to me by Netflix.  It is a sequel to Before Sunrise (1995), and even though I had never heard of either movie, I decided to view them because they star Ethan Hawke, one of my favorite actors, and were favorably reviewed.  I was planning to watch Before Sunrise first, but Netflix mailed me Before Sunrise first, so what was I to do?

What a movie!  Before Sunrise involves American Ethan Hawke having a fantastic one-night stand with French Julie Delphy in Vienna and then agreeing to meet again in six months (like An Affair to Remember) as the movie ends.  Before Sunset begins nine years later with Hawke, now a successful author, having a book-signing event in Paris and Delphy showing up at the event.  For the next 90 minutes, they played catch-up by having a non-stop 90 minute conversation, and that conversation between two people was the entire movie.

Delphy’s first question was whether Hawke had shown up in Vienna.  She hadn’t because her grandmother died the day before.  Hawke initially said he hadn’t, and Delphy was saddened.  But then Hawke eventually admitted that he had, and Delphy was even more saddened.  Incredible!  As someone who loves philosophical, romantic conversation, I was in heaven the entire time.

As their conversation got deeper over time, both Hawke and Delphy revealed that the connection that they made that one night in Vienna put a shadow on all their future relationships (Hawke was married to a teacher and had a son; Delphy was an environmental activist in a committed relationship with a musician).  Hawke mentioned that he was actually thinking on his wedding day that Delphy would show up and stop the ceremony, and Delphy described some similar incidents in her life.  As the movie draws to a conclusion, you wonder how the characters, with nine additional years of wisdom, will act differently that their younger selves.

Before Sunset received a Rotten Tomato rating of 95% from the critics and 89% from the audience, which is almost as good as Before Sunrise’s 100% from the critics and 92% from the audience.  I can’t wait to see Before Sunrise.  I give Before Sunset four stars out of four.