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From Under A Rock: Before Sunset

January 22, 2018 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Before Sunset
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From Under A Rock: Before Sunset  

Some movies are perfect without a sequel, and give no real indication that one is coming. But sometimes the sequel comes along anyway and ends up being better than the original, and that’s the case here.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael chose Contact. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock to show him Before Sunset.

Before Sunset
Released: July 2nd, 2004
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Written by: Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, based on a story by Linklater and Kim Krazan
Ethan Hawke as Jesse
Julie Delpy as Celine

Aaron Hubbard: More than half a year ago, I introduced Michael to Before Sunrise, one of my favorite pure romance movies ever made. The sequel, Before Sunset, is my favorite and had to be covered. And we’ll get to Before Midnight before the year is out.
Michael Ornelas: I want to have a pure romance with this movie, I loved it so much. I’m so excited for when we watch the third one.
Picking Up Where They Left Off
Aaron: Coming out nine years after Before Sunrise, this movie also takes place nine years after that film. Their promise to rendezvous a year later may not have turned out as planned, but when a chance encounter brings Celine and Jesse together, it may as well have been yesterday. Time has passed, some things changed, some things stayed the same and where the hell did the last eighty minutes of my life go? This movie is compulsively watchable and it is almost literally just one conversation between two people!
Michael: I was gripped from about 4 minutes in until the closing credits. The opening seemed to be setting up what could have been a hokey romantic comedy, but as soon as Celine showed her face, I lit up. I had a legitimately giddy reaction and choked up. I’m a baby, but it’s a testament to the chemistry between the characters (and actors) established in the first film that I got so excited just seeing that they were in the same room, before they even interacted.
Aaron: I do think the beginning is just a tad silly, though it does give us a reason for Jesse to be in Paris. Watching this movie again reminded me what it does that makes it better than the original for me. Or rather, what it doesn’t do; very rarely is a third party involved in this movie. It’s one conversation that feels like it is done in real time and never stops being engaging. And most of the movie is made of long takes, which is a testament to the skills of Hawke and Delpy.
Constructed Morality vs. Destiny
Michael: I think it’s very clear that Jesse and Celine were meant to be together. They click so perfectly, and it’s what everyone wants to see. But we learn in act 2 that Jesse has since been married, and he has kids. But he’s not in love. “I feel like I’m running a small nursery with a girl I used to date.” That line devastated me because there’s the expectation of fidelity in a marriage. I ascribe to it, and I imagine most of the viewing audience does as well. It’s a tough position to be in, rooting for a character to end up with someone else, but here we are. Linklater brilliantly placed it as an obstacle to Jesse and Celine’s relationship, and after the ending, I’m waiting on bated breath to learn what happened.
Aaron: I feel like there’s a lot more tension in this second chapter. The small talk doesn’t last as long as we can see Jesse and Celine trying to avoid addressing the elephant in the room. Celine especially tries to block out the attraction because she’s afraid of another relationship ending poorly. When they get the car near the end and Celine is trying so hard to push Jesse away, it’s heartbreaking. But man, what a note perfect ending, as both of them become almost resigned to how much they’re in love.
Michael: I was bawling as she was singing her song. They both made art about one another!! It’s such a beautiful story, and even if there wasn’t a third movie, my mind would be at peace with that ending.
Perfect Character Writing
Aaron: Something that always blows me away about this series is how Jesse and Celine evolve while staying true to their characters. Jesse is still an optimist about love whose charm is overwhelmed by Celine’s personality, but he’s also still a cynic about Celine’s pet causes like environmentalism. Celine is still insecure about the plausibility of love but unable to resist Jesse. Yet she’s much more in control of her life and knows what she wants in other areas. I love how these two complement each other and I love how this movie makes these people feel authentic to the kids we knew, but more mature. As Jesse points out, people never really change who they are totally.
Michael: Yeah I honestly never really felt like they character missed a beat. Filmed and released 9 years apart, the scripts feel like they were written within the same month. That level of consistency is admirable, and I got to fall in love with the characters all over again. Celine seems “cool” for lack of a better term, and Jesse is unable to hide his smittenness. They’re the perfect pair, and I will defend that statement to the death.
Aaron: I think what makes them perfect is that they are decidedly not perfect. These two feel so real to me, and I feel as close to them as I’ve ever felt to any two fictional characters. Partly because I see myself in both of them; Jesse’s need to create an ideal reality and live up to his expectations even when they don’t make him happy. Celine running away from relationships because she fears they will harm her irreparably. I’ve both of these people at different times.

Michael: Bring on the third one. This may be the first trilogy that gets three perfect ratings from me.

Aaron: Before Sunset improves on its predecessor by trimming the fat. We get two great actors playing two excellent characters having a conversation they helped write with the director. This movie is very nearly perfect.

Michael: I can’t say that was unexpected. I’m happy it lived up to the hype that I had for it!
Aaron: For my money, this is the most consistently fantastic trilogy ever made.

What is the best “unnecessary” sequel ever made?

Next week:
Michael: You know what? I’m gonna pick a little Linklater of my own for next week.
Aaron: …huh. I honestly did not believe this was Linklater. Quite an eclectic fellow.
Michael: Yeah, he’s all over the place. In a good way.

What’s the best dramatic performance by a comedic actor?

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The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
Before Sunset is an incredible follow up to Before Sunrise. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy assist Richard Linklater in writing their characters, resulting in some of the absolute best dialogue you will hear in a movie. In its own genre, this series may be without peer, and we can't recommend them enough.