'Before Midnight': Richard Linklater on the little trilogy that could
When Richard Linklater made Before Sunrise with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in 1995, the chances of their adorable characters returning for a sequel, much less two, were as remote as the Greek island of Pserimos. Not only did the original, which captured the chance encounter of a grungy American guy named Jesse and a sophisticated French beauty named Celine as they spent less than a day in Vienna, gross just $5.5 million, but the characters’ soulful, Generation-X banter was the absolute antithesis of a modern movie franchise. Yet people who liked the film really liked the film. And since Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy enjoyed their very collaborative filmmaking experience, they reunited to co-write Before Sunset in 2004, which picked up the story nine years after Jesse and Celine had promised each other to meet up again six months after their meeting in Vienna. Turns out they did not, and Jesse had written a novel about their beautiful, coulda-been fling, which helps bring them back together in Paris. Critics swooned, the Academy nominated the trio for Best Original Screenplay, and everyone who loved the original turned out for the sequel: it grossed $5.8 million!
Clearly, money talks. So eight years later, Linklater got the band back together, packed their bags for Greece, and made Before Midnight. The cliffhanger of Before Sunset — will Jesse stay with Celine in Paris or leave to catch his plane for New York — is settled immediately: they’re married with children of their own. But their lives and love are more complicated than ever, and their story is richer and more layered as well. Their ambitions, their flaws, their insecurities all laid bare, Celine and Jesse have become surrogates for those early-20’s audiences who fell in love with Before Sunrise and now perhaps find themselves at difficult, reflective moments in their own relationships, asking “How did we get here?”
Since Before Midnight premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy — who also co-wrote Midnight — have fielded repeated questions about Celine and Jesse’s future. Is this the end? Or should we expect another check-in in 2022? I’m bullish, especially since Midnight clobbered its predecessors at the box-office. And by clobbered, I mean it cleared more than $8.1 million. Obviously, this isn’t a trilogy built around box-office, but audiences don’t seem ready to say goodbye.
Before Midnight, which should get some Oscar buzz, is out on Blu-ray tomorrow. Below, in two exclusive video clips, Linklater discusses the sequels, how they came about, and what it’s like to collaborate with Delpy and Hawke. If nothing else, just let Graham Reynolds’s strumming score marinate over you. It can’t transport you to a Greek island, but it’s almost the next best thing on a Monday morning.
And for those who missed the movie in theaters and need a reason to see it at home, here’s the trailer: