Year Released: 2013
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ethan Hawk, Julie Delpy
(R, 108 min.)
“All the reasons of man cannot outweigh a single feeling of a woman.” Voltaire
The third part of this Indie trilogy draws you in with its witty banter and “unscripted” conversation. But don’t fall for it. A pseudo intellectual veneer covers what is essentially a shallow and vulgar core masquerading as something of worth.
In Before Sunrise (1995) American Jesse Wallace (Ethan Hawke) and French woman Celine (Julie Delpy) meet on a train and are irresistibly drawn to each other. Before Sunset (2004) has them meet again 9 years later in Paris to renew their connection.
“In Before Midnight we meet Celine and Jesse 9 years on. Almost 2 decades have passed since that first meeting on a train bound for Vienna, and we now find them in their early 40's in Greece.” The two are now a couple with twin daughters spending the summer at a Writers' Retreat.
Almost the entire film is dialogue, a lovely dinner and lively conversation with their Greek hosts sandwiched in between verbal sparring between Jesse and Celine that soon becomes all out warfare as the film proceeds.
Depending on your point of view, this is either a delightfully perceptive take on the realities of long term relationships or an annoyingly awkward replay of being trapped in an elevator with a bickering couple for not quite two hours.
Of course, one cannot help but be somewhat charmed by the openness and candor in this tangled web of vulnerability, inconsistency, and false bravado. We laugh because most of us have been there ourselves at one time or another. We even see that part of the bond between Jesse and Celine is their ongoing battle of wits.
Most viewers and critics of this highly rated film find the repartee benignly amusing, a current version of the battle of the sexes we so enjoyed in Hepburn and Tracy, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, and even Lucy and Rickie Ricardo. For this lonely critic, however, there is a toxic core that undermines each of the sexes.
By her vapid arguments Celine demeans the very feminism she supposedly advocates. This is a woman with two wonderful twin daughters and an adoring mate. She lives in Paris and has just finished a summer on the Greek Peloponnese peninsula at a glorious estate that fittingly looks like a movie set. In view of the real problems faced by women throughout the larger misogynist world, her complaints seem petty and outdated. She has to pack for the girls herself, she complains, and then when Jesse volunteers that he would be glad to do that himself, she counters that he could never do the task correctly.
Celine is also roiled that she has had to spend her days chopping vegetables for Greek salads while Jesse has had time to think about his writing, which is, by the way, why she and their girls live so well. And of course, the reason behind their invitation to this Writers’ Retreat in Greece in the first place. However, what is merely a whiny diatribe becomes toxic when Celine goes on, in a fit of pique, to scorn Jesse’s love-making techniques.
Jesse, who is hopelessly attached to this malcontent, is either a saint or neurotic masochist. And Jesse alone is not the only man demeaned who takes it with a smile. At the chattering class Greek dinner, the women strut out all the reasons to devalue men. One of the youngest females, who seems ironically besotted with the boyfriend she has summered there with, recalls her grandmother’s dying letter, pages and pages devoted to her tales of work and friends, with only a paragraph of two about her husband of many years.
Her final advice to her granddaughter: Look for comfort in your female friends instead of your mate. Another at the table, in between kisses for her husband, recounts stories of a nurse who said female accident victims always asked about their families when coming back to consciousness. Men, without exception, first looked down to see if their masculinity was intact. Strangely enough, the males at the table never refute these jaded views, but appear wryly amused instead.
And finally, despite earlier very sweet and romantic testimonies to his undying love, which seem to fall on deaf ears, it is Jesse’s promise of mind-bending sex that ultimately lures Celine back into their hotel room and relationship.
Sadly, that is what passes for quality today, at least among the glitteratti. I rest my case.
Spending the summer on Greek Peloponnese peninsula at a glorious stone estate overlooking the sea is such a burdensome task, don’t you think? At least that’s what Celine seems to think when she complains that her summer afternoons have been devoted to chopping ingredients for endless Greeks salads. As we watch the happy conversation around the dinner table, however, the results appear well worth the effort.
You can find our recipe for the Ultimate Greek Salad here.
For today’s film, here is a delightful variation, one that can be made ahead of time and is perfect for a summer evening, if not in seaside Greece, right there in your own back yard. Enjoy the delicious Greek Pasta Salad.
Greek Pasta Salad
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon white sugar
2 1/2 cups cooked elbow macaroni
3 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup sliced red bell peppers
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 (4 ounce) can whole black olives
3/4 cup sliced pepperoni sausage, cut into strips
In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder, basil, oregano, black pepper, and sugar. Add cooked pasta, mushrooms, tomatoes, red peppers, feta cheese, green onions, olives, and pepperoni. Toss until evenly coated. Cover, and chill 2 hours or overnight.