Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are two of my favorite movies–so naturally, I’m beside myself with excitement over Before Midnight, the conclusion to Richard Linklater‘s romantic trilogy starring Julie Delpy and (be still my grungy 90’s heart!) Ethan Hawke. Before Midnight debuted to rapturous reviews at Sundance and will be anchoring the Tribeca Film Festival.
You’ve seen these movies, right? They’re real and raw: all about romance, disappointment and dreams. Time–its passage, the regret it dredges up, the way it changes you–is just as important a character in Before Sunrise/Before Sunset as are “Celine” and “Jesse“…which is why I was so annoyed to see somebody try to airbrush it out in these two competing stills for Before Midnight. (Yes, I found these while doing endlessly dorky Google searches in anticipation of Before Midnight‘s debut.)
In the first photo I came across of Julie Delpy, I thought: She still looks great! (And, for the record, Ethan Hawke still looks crazy hot. I’d roll around with him while “All I Want Is You” blares in the background anytime.) But in the second photo, I immediately noticed that Julie looked slimmed–dramatically so. Cue some retroactive searching and comparison of the two photos and, yes indeed: somebody is trying to give 43-year-old Julie Delpy the body of 23-year-old Julie Delpy…
Which is missing the entire point.
These movies are beloved because they feel authentic. They so eloquently articulate the way memories can haunt you–how sometimes you’ve been stumbling around, dazed, going through the motions–and then you look up, blink, and realize that things (life, love) have passed you by. They’re not glossy and trite and cobbled together by Romantic Comedy Executive Committees who insist that you rotate out Julie Delpy for, say, Brooklyn Decker in a mini-skirt.
Before Sunset is particularly chockabloc with memorable quotes but the one that punches me in the gut every time is when Julie Delpy’s Celine says:
“I guess when you’re young, you just believe there’ll be many people with whom you’ll connect with. Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times.”
23-year-old me would have scoffed at that. But now? Boy, oh, boy does that ever resonate.
Whether it was Sony Pictures Classic, the photographer, or just some random online VF staffer, I guess the airbrushing struck a nerve with me because it’s the same sort of “You don’t deserve love unless you’re beautiful” attitude that’s so pervasive in LA, and which I’ve subconsciously internalized. Everybody wants to put their best foot forward, of course, but the bar is constantly, absurdly raised here–continually set to even higher and more impossible standards. (Like the time a few years ago when I unwittingly found myself competing for a guy’s attentions with AnnaLynne McCord. Welcome to LA!)
The notion of letting your guard down so far that somebody sees the real you, the schlubby you, the period-weight you, the zit-cream you…and still wants in? Mindblowing.
Celine and Jesse–their flaws, their dreams, their dilemmas–they could be you or me. And you and me age, widen, wrinkle. It’s the way the cookie crumbles.
But just because it crumbles doesn’t mean it’s any less tasty!
Oh, if you’re wondering: according to early Sundance reviews, Before Midnight is the best of the bunch.