Before Midnight brings a wonderful trilogy to the perfect end.

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I can’t believe it’s been eighteen years!  Wow!  Time truly does fly.  Before Midnight brings us back to visit the small, quiet universe created by Richard Linklater and then enriched by its stars and co writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.   With the Before trilogy, this talented trio has brought us one of the most honest, real and un-Hollywood stories about love, self discovery and our connection to others, especially as men and women.  My daughter, Vieve, and I decided to re-watch the two predecessors before the latest installment and it was very interesting to see them back to back.

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It was 1994 when Linklater had this daring idea to make a film, Before Sunrise, that was about two people walking and talking.  That’s it.  Nothing else happens–they walk and talk–and it is brilliant!  A new approach to an old formula of two young people falling in love.  A young American tourist, Jesse bumps into a Parisian young woman, Celine and they decide to explore Vienna together before his flight back to the US.  The evening they share is insightful and biting and yet, tender and hopeful.  Like its young stars, the story addresses the issues that are important to them and although romantic, they are both inexperienced and still have the optimistic view of love and life.  It was wonderful to watch their natural chemistry and to fall in love with these characters.  They part at the end with the promise to meet again in 6 months with no exchange of information–just their word that they will meet.  It is left to the audience to decide their fate.  Did they?  Do they live happily ever after?  Or do they continue with their separate lives with a common memory?

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Nine years later, they told us what happened in Before Sunset.  You know that I won’t give it away :D, but the premise is that they meet again in Paris.  Much has happened and whether they meet, as promised, or not–they are both older and full of life experiences.  It was awesome the way Linklater, Hawke and Delpy connected the two.  Revisiting topics of conversation to show the effects of time, wisdom and the consequences of our choices.  Now Jesse and Celine are a bit more cynical about life and love.  We are offered an honest approach to the decisions people make.  Do we settle?  What is love?  Is it not just commitment and compromise?  Will they find their happily ever after, after all?  Again, brilliant.

Now, another 9 years have passed and they give us Before Midnight.  This time around Jesse and Celine are in a totally different place than either of the earlier films.  And again, they offer an honest approach to relationships and revisit some familiar topics.  Officially middle-aged, they are now confronted with a whole new set of discussions and feelings about life and love (this time in Greece).  It was awesome to find answers to questions asked before–to seem them come full circle in ideas and in actions–and to see them both grow and change.  Side note: Whether you tend to agree with Jesse or Celine–I appreciated the debate brought forth–both sides have valid points and neither is cast as the wrong or right–in other words–it’s a fair fight!  😀  Well done.

I love this trilogy.  Sharply written–full of warmth, humor and truth.  Simply, yet smartly directed–Linklater makes intelligent choices in pacing and flow in all three movies that keeps it interesting–which is necessary when there is a bunch of talking and only talking going on.  😉  Beautifully and skillfully acted.  Both Hawke and Delpy are fantastic throughout!  They put a lot of themselves in the scripts and their wit and intelligence shines through.  How fascinating to create and play a character for so long–to see them evolve–I am sure that is a rare opportunity in film and it’s a pleasure to watch.  Honestly, you do not need more than that, despite what Hollywood says–you really don’t–it is enough.  I enjoyed my 18 years with Jesse and Celine–and I would love to revisit them again–maybe in another 9 years??  If they do–I will be there, ready to see what that chapter brings in their lives.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction–Bernie proves it!

Wow! It is hard to understand at times what people do, say and believe. Bernie is a true story. And although it is told from a black comedy angle, the events and reactions are real. Director Richard Linklater has even interviewed the real citizens of Carthage (east Texas town this takes place in) and woven it into the narrative or should I say dramatization.  Gossip, speculations and craziness ensues.

Adapted from a 1998 article in Texas Monthly, titled “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas.” written by Skip Hollandsworth (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Linklater), this tale reads like pure fiction.  A fiction full of all sorts of drama, deception and murder.  I did not know too much going in except for what I just stated and (as you know by now) I will not spoil it for you–discovering what happens is part of the experience while watching this film.

The cast is small and spot on. I like Jack Black. Yes, I know he can be over the top at times but I love it when he gets it right. And he gets Bernie right. Black’s charisma and exuberance are the perfect fit for this man and yet, it never feels like a caricature. It feels natural and easy.  Matthew McConaughey continues his supporting role awesomeness. He is a pure treat in this film–his expressions alone are worth it.  And last, but not least, the incomparable Shirley MacLaine.  She is amazing.  No one else could have portrayed this character so perfectly.

Linklater purposefully creates a small, intimate movie and in turn, it makes you feel like you’re part of this community. It is incredible how powerful perception can be and how strong personal convictions can taint your reality. A very interesting, thought-provoking tale that is well structured and told. Sometimes, I still can’t believe it’s not made up.

Again, wow.