Before Sunrise/Sunset

I'm posting this as a double review, my first ever, since they are basically the same film, albeit seperated in time and quality. Before Sunset was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar, so I had to watch it, but I had to watch it's predecessor, Before Sunrise, first. That's the way these things work. To make it simple for you, I liked Sunrise better, as it was more original, and Sunset seemed sort of tacked on. But further explanation exists below...

Before Sunrise features Ethan Hawke (as Jesse) and Julie Delpy (as Celine) as two strangers who meet on a train en route to different destinations, and decide to spend a night together wandering Vienna. The concept in and of itself is very romantic, but the film does not devolve into dewey-eyed splendor as it easily could have. The whole movie is best described as one long conversation between the two characters, where they discuss any topic under the sun, and in the short hours they spend together, fall in love. It's a very, very talkative movie. It could easily be done on stage, or be relocated to basically any location in the world. It's well-executed, pure and simple. Their journey through the city is like a journey through an entire relationship, concentrated into one night, and distilled to its essence. It's like taking a shot of whiskey, as opposed to sipping wine throughout your dinner. BAM! An ambiguous ending opened the door for...

Before Sunset, which catches up with Jesse and Celine 9 years later, as Jesse is on a book tour promoting his "fictional" story of the plot of the first movie. Celine surprises him in Paris, and, as before, they spend a whirlwind time together, with ambiguous results. Complications abound, though, as Jesse is married and a father, and Celine is involved and has become very bitter towards love as a concept. Nevertheless, it is evident that they never stopped thinking about each other, and begin all over again to recapture the lightning in a bottle that they had their first night in Vienna. Where Sunset falters, though, is in originality and predictability. It is basically more of the same of Sunrise's successful parts, which is good, but I guess I expected a little more variety. And this may be the jaded film geek in me, but I knew how it would end within the first five minutes of the movie. It's only 75 minutes, too. I can't really knock off points for runtime, but it's just worth noting.

Richard Linklater, writer/director, of both films, has proven himself to be one of the most prolific double threats that can straddle the indie/studio line. He has had modest studio hits with Dazed and Confused and School of Rock, but he's not hesistant to do psuedo-animation like Waking Life or the upcoming A Scanner Darkly, or take a chance on the rarest of all genres: the indie romance sequel. That's basically unheard of. While Sunset is a noble effort, it falls short of it's parent, but Linklater should be commended for doing his own thing. I'm sure there were oceans of studio execs that would have laughed at the notion of a sequel to Before Sunrise, but here we are. It got an Oscar nom, and I would say deservedly so. I doubt it'll win, though, as it's up against Sideways and Million Dollar Baby in the Adapted subgroup. Sideways should take that.

While watching both films back to back is not advisable, as that much talking can make your head explode, both Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are good films, providing a glimpse into how two strangers can connect in such a huge world as ours, and proving that lightning sometimes strikes twice. In the case of Jesse and Celine, lightning all over the place in Sunset, but for Richard Linklater, no such luck. Before Sunrise gets a B, Before Sunset gets a C.


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