What great chemistry! Again. Richard Linklater's BEFORE SUNSET, the sequel to
one of last decade's best films, BEFORE SUNRISE, again pairs Ethan Hawke and
Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine. Once young lovers who had a one-night fling
in Vienna and completely lost touch with each other afterwards, they are now
thinner, frailer and a decade older but still obviously and madly in love.
"I can't believe you're here," Jesse tells Celine when they meet in Paris for a
few hours before he has to catch a plane home to the U.S. We can't believe it
either since their first film was such a perfectly constructed talkfest that it
is somewhat scary to see them together again. Will they blow it and be boring
old fogies, or will they still find lots to say worth hearing? Not to fear,
even though they are now the ripe old age of thirty-two, they can each talk a
blue streak full of fascinating little thoughts on life. Typical of these
tidbits are Jesse's reflection, "Life's hard. It's supposed to be. If we
didn't suffer, we wouldn't learn anything," and Celine's musing, "There are so
many things I want to do, and I end up doing -- not much."
As they walk and talk through the streets of Paris, we learn how happy each of
them is. Jesse is a successful writer, having written a "tiny" best selling
novel based on his one-night affair with Celine. He's got a beautiful and
smart wife and an adorable five-year-old son. Celine, who is employed by a
non-profit that fights for environmental and other liberal causes, is currently
in a relationship with a war photographer, who, conveniently for the sake of
her independence, is gone most of the time. By the last act, however, many of
these happy facades break, and the real truths begin to emerge.
One thing is certain, they both agree, with Woody Allenesque logic, that it's
not all about sex, which means, of course, that it really is. They both get
real charges out the sexual banter and humor that they share with each other.
Jesse laments that their day together isn't their last day on earth since they
seem in agreement that, if it were, they'd both be having sex like rabbits
all-day long. One of their early disagreements is whether they actually had
sex in Vienna all those years ago. She is pretty sure that he didn't have a
condom so she wouldn't let him. His memory is quite different.
Eventually this film, with its wonderfully unscripted feel, comes to an abrupt
and completely unsatisfactory conclusion. But, to be honest, I'm not quite
sure how I would have wanted the story to end. I am ready for the next episode
in their lives, whatever they call it (BEFORE MOONRISE?) and whenever they want
to make it. These actors own the screen when they are on it together.
Watching them is sheer delight.
BEFORE SUNSET runs a little too fast at 1:20. It is rated R for "language and
sexual references" and would be acceptable for teenagers.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes