Movie: Before Midnight
What it’s up for: Adapted Screenplay
I’m not even sure how to begin to talk about this film. I don’t even want to call it a “movie” because I feel like “movie” implies some sort of entertainment while “film” could talk about anything including documentaries and political propaganda. Before Midnight is neither of those things – but it has the same feel. I also didn’t realize that it was the third movie in a series when I watched it which explains SO MUCH about the way it was structured.
I understand why it was nominated for adapted screenplay. It has a unique structure that I’ve never seen before. First of all, the synopsis for this story that is scattered throughout the internet is very misleading. It seems like it’s going to be a romantic dramedy about how a couple met, using flashbacks and meet-cutes to show how their relationship has become what it is today. It is not that. It IS about a couple, but the entire movie takes place during a single afternoon and evening, without any flashbacks. The background information given is entirely through conversation (and through the prior two movies, which I didn’t know existed).
Second of all, there are 6 scenes in the entire movie. SIX. It’s total running time is 1 hour and 48 minutes. And it has SIX SCENES. I just need you to let that sink in for a moment. Add that tidbit to the fact that each scene runs almost in real-time – as in there are very few, if any, jumps in time, except between scenes. Can you visualize the pace of this movie? Yes, it brings the idea of a “slow pace” to a whole new level. I think this is writer/director Richard Linklater’s MO, but I’m not familiar with his work.
Basically what happens over these six scenes is that this couple, Celine and Jesse (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, respectively), work through an issue in their relationship. No…really. That’s what happens. What’s INCREDIBLY interesting, though, is that bits from this movie popped into my head throughout the day after I watched it. After sitting through these conversations, you begin to feel like you are friends with these two. The script is incredible. The entire impact of any moment happens because of the words that are said. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke both helped write the script, which suggests to me that some of it may have been ad-libbed or at least contributed from real conversations. It feels like a real conversation. They keep it moving forward but often link back to things said earlier in amusing or thought-provoking ways. They didn’t even use too many relationship clichés until the very end.
It honestly is not an entertaining movie. I’m not sure what the intention was for the film, but if you’re looking for entertainment, this isn’t it. It doesn’t even really provide any thought-provoking kernels of wisdom. (Although they did use the term “closet Christian” at one point, which I didn’t realize was a thing.) Celine is obnoxiously feminist and stereotypically female. She uses passive aggression and selective listening to make things harder for Jesse and that drove me CRAZY. However, I really liked how they showed them arguing. It seemed real and they spent time to talk. That is a much better thing to see than the typical entertainment versions of arguments where someone storms out after a couple minutes of yelling.
I think this film is worth watching if you want to see something different and you want to listen to a great script. It would probably help to watch the prequels (Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) before you watch this one.
I don’t think it’ll win. But I get why it was nominated.