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Sundance: Marco returns with some thoughts on Linklater's BEFORE MIDNIGHT!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here to intro our pal Marco Cerritos who has been feeding us Sundance reviews since I had to sit out the big fest this year. He's got some thoughts on Richard Linklater's Before Midnight and I'm super excited about this one. Marco mentions us hopeless romantics in his review and that's exactly right. Linklater's Before films totally play to those of us that would fall into that category.

Before Midnight is officially part of the SXSW lineup, which means I will see it next month and all will be right in the world. In the meantime, here's Marco with his thoughts on the flick:

“Before Midnight” is the long-awaited third entry in the series of films created by director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Their previous two collaborations, “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” absorbed audiences into the lives of star-crossed lovers who meet by chance in one film and meet again nine years later in the second. “Midnight” follows the trend, picking up nine years after “Sunset” and while it may not be as strong as the previous entry, there is undeniable care and honesty in the adult themes explored in the film.

To the uninitiated, Hawke and Delpy play Jesse and Celine, the lovers in question who met in their twenties and examined young love in “Before Sunrise” and continued to get to know each other in their thirties in “Before Sunset.” This second entry was so honest and magical in capturing the messy complexities of young love that for many it felt like a copy of their own romantic struggles, all the way to its immaculate ending. After “Sunset” became a huge cultural touchstone, the pressure was on to create an honest narrative that could continue the impressive story without butchering what came before it.

Without spoiling major story elements, I can say that Jesse and Celine are in fact reunited at the start of “Before Midnight” in ways that answer many questions posed at the end of the last film. In fact, most of these questions are answered within the first few minutes of “Midnight” without any dialogue. What we see onscreen tell us exactly what we need to know about how things resolved themselves between the nine year gap of the last two films.

The new film’s setting has changed from Paris to Greece and the first act of “Before Midnight” goes out of its way to address that change by bringing in new characters and incorporating them into the story. This change is not a welcome addition and almost threatens to drag the film into a monotonous bore. There is a rhythmic quality to our two leads as they walk and talk, continuing to explore each other with frank conversation. Bringing in outside voices disrupts that and makes for the weakest section of the film.

But once we leave the sluggish first act and have Jesse and Celine on their own, that’s when “Before Midnight” begins to shine. As observers to their relationship, we are invested in the ups and downs of this connection and it helps that Hawke, Delpy and Linklater have taken the time to collaborate on a screenplay that continues to ring true about love’s messy ways. The trio is fully aware that fans of this series have come to love this couple and expect nothing short of honesty and for the most part, “Before Midnight” delivers on that promise. The strongest parts of the film overshadow the messy first act by miles and remind us why love is so imperfect in the first place.

It is entirely possible that pulling from personal experience has helped make these fictionalized characters incredibly real and if that’s the case I want to thank Hawke, Delpy and Linklater on behalf of hopeless romantics everywhere. Authenticity is why these films are so beloved and in a way it has become the fictionalized version of Michael Apted’s “Up” series but instead of revisiting British adults every seven years we look forward to seeing fictionalized lovers every nine years. After “Before Midnight” the pressure to continue this story may be on more than ever but I sincerely hope the trio decides to extend this fascinating experiment.

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