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Before Midnight (2013)

by on 2013/07/17

“You are the mayor of crazy town.”

* * *

Before_Midnight_2013Hacker Renders and I decided to take my beloved teenager Miss_Tree to film school again this weekend, exposing her in rapid succession to the Richard Linklater “Before” series.

We watched Before Sunrise, and Before Sunset on Friday, and then drove a great distance on Saturday to see the latest installment, Before Midnight. Hacker Renders and I had done this before for Miss_Tree, like the time we conducted an Avengers school, forcing her to watch the Hulk, Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, before we saw the Avengers’ main event.

This time we may have made an awful, awful mistake. Fifteen-year-old Miss_Tree is now a traumatized wreck – wailing about the erstwhile, ill-fated lovers Jesse and Celine. Mostly, we both wondered what in the hell happened to make the adorable, beautiful, achingly charming Celine of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset into a brittle, heat-seeking bitch missile in Before Midnight.

Yes, you heard me.

I’m a working mother too. A feminist. And I just called Celine a bitch.

Before you pelt me with stolen wine glasses, balled-up invitations to Austrian plays about cows and discarded plane tickets to Vienna, please understand I have my (detailed) reasons.

I love Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawk) to the point that, in my twisted fan girl mind, I regard them as close friends. I wept like a baby throughout the first and second installments of the series, practically dehydrating myself completely during Before Sunset.

These movies are beloved to me. They are like the high holiest of holies in my secular Dead Sea Scrolls of collected human wisdom. I’ve always marveled at these films’ ability to make me care about two people who literally do nothing but talk and walk around through the streets of Vienna and Paris. My heart pounds at the suspense of these movies more than it does during most block-buster action films.

That’s why Before Midnight was such a shock. It was the shock of seeing someone you love turn into an unhinged, ranting, narcissistic monster.

I could barely drive after I left the theatre. Hours later, I was still messed up.

The next day Miss_Tree and I reported that we had nightmares. Miss_Tree had dreams of Celine turning into Ursula of the Little Mermaid – a demon stealing Jesse’s soul. I had nightmares as well, Celine unleashing all of her guilt, rage and unfulfilled potential at me for hours and hours and hours.

Okay. So why do I think Celine is a bitch in Before Midnight?

(Spoiler Alert): Here are a few assorted reasons:

Self-centred drama-queenism – Jesse is agonized about his son from a previous marriage leaving after spending a summer vacation with him in Greece. Jesse has an acrimonious relationship with his ex, and only gets to see his son on holidays. Clearly hurting and missing his boy, Jesse asks Celine what he should do. Celine uses this as an opening to rant about her career and accuse Jesse of trying to sabotage her success. She turns his pain into a conversation about her, and her needs.

Tasteless, ill-timed, insensitive vulgarity – Jesse’s grandmother dies. Instead of offering sympathy, Celine whines about needing to go to the funeral in Texas, and makes a joke about Jesse’s and Texan’s fondness (overall apparently) for cousin fucking.

Dinner party warfare – Celine tries to humiliate Jesse at a dinner party of his peers, accusing him of being a macho chauvinist who only wants her to act the bimbo. She goes so far as play out this offensive version of a vapid bimbo at the table, embarrassing everyone.

Unfair fighting – Jesse suffers a relentless onslaught of abuse, offering undying, unconditional love while being called names. He’s told he’s pretentious, boring in bed, unhelpful around the house and completely unconcerned with HER needs. The relationship seems troublingly one-sided, with Jesse doing all of the chasing, and Celine attacking and spitting abuse while she withdraws.

For all those students of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I strongly suggest you bring a fresh notebook to this movie.

I realize this movie is getting great reviews right now but I have to believe that those good folks haven’t loved the previous movies in the way that we have. Instead, perhaps, they are taking this movie as a standalone, modern-day Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, where two entitled, middle-aged people rage and spew their First World bile at one another.

Perhaps this film does hold an unflattering mirror up to our modern-day relationships, where everyone is too spoiled to appreciate what they have. Maybe this movie is an answer to our current culture’s insatiable appetite for schadenfreude, and Before Midnight has simply taken Celine and Jesse into the Big Brother house, where the hidden camera captures every nasty detail of a relationship off the rails.

Hacker Renders reminded me of a line in Julie Delpy’s song in the second movie. It is a perfect summing up of this third film: “Je t’aime, je t’aime, je te detruire.”

As for me, I can only mourn for Celine, the Botticelli angel turned demon.

* * *

109 series-destroying minutes

Rated R for nudity, sexual content, language

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