Review: Before Midnight

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Midnight.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Midnight.


Rating: ***** 

The Most Hated Film Critic rates Before Midnight as 2013’s best film.

Trilogies have become a staple today. Every Hollywood film is released with plans of a trilogy in mind. When Before Sunrise ended with the promise of the lead characters – Jesse and Celine – agreeing to meet six months later, we thought they will meet six months later.

Nine years later came Before Sunset, the sequel that told us what happened to the characters created by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan. Jesse did turn up six months later, but Celine didn’t. You can see Ethan Hawke as Jesse trying to hide his disappointment when he narrates the event. This of course is Hawke’s credibility as an actor. In fact, the Before trilogy showcases a string of memorable performances that none of his other films did.

With Before Sunset, director Linklater gave another open ending, but this time we weren’t sure what to choose. The third film Before Midnight takes place nine years later and answers your questions about the second film.

Films set in exotic locales like Greece or Italy tend to be a postcard from the filmmaker. But, Before Midnight does not fall prey to that. It’s a story about a couple with differences trying to get along. The film is shot in the same way, not paying heed to the enchanting locations or the people. The film is selfish. It’s only about them.

What impressed me the most was the maturity in both characters and that they would give anything to go back to the summer of 1995 so they won’t have to wait this long to unite.

Jesse and Celine are a couple now. They have adorable twin daughters, whom we will meet briefly. Why should we have to? This is a selfish film. We are here only to watch what happens to them and not worry about the kids.

The couple continue to have their disgruntled arguments about politics, science, sex, love, family and even mortality. More amusing are the conversations they have with others. The centrepiece of the film is a dinner conversation between four couples – all in the different stages of life.

Linklater tries to draw you towards the anti-climactic argument which does unravel their nine-year long union. Given that it is a well-written scene, you may wonder if it adds value to the characters.

Before Midnight should be on everyone’s must watch list. It’s the best in the trilogy and the best this year.

It closes the story arc. It celebrates the art of dialogue. It celebrates life in your forties. It is made up of emotions you’d feel at that age. It is in fact telling you to go forth and say what’s on your mind. Would you much like these characters wait this long to reunite?


Review: Toy Story 3

Woody, Buzz and friends are back for their final and enigmatic performance in Toy Story 3.

We grew up. But, they couldn’t

Toy Story 3 (G)

Director: Lee Unkrich

Voiced by: Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Robbins (Buzz Lightyear), Joan Cusack (Jessie) and Ned Beatty (Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear)

Rating: *****

It is rather with an allusion that Toy Story 3 succeeds as a realm of childhood fantasies. Whether it is the pre-title sequence or the play put up by Bonnie, the animated girl who tries to act shy, Toy Story 3 definitely succeeds in terms of reminding you of your toys. I was very much reminded of my G.I. Joes. The humans in the film grow up while the toys still pretend to see them in the same light.

But, with a succumbed charm, Woody and Buzz Lightyear return for their last dance and the two characters do a pretty good job. Voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Robbins, the two toys hold the key to the life of the Toy Story trilogy. It is Woody’s “Phone Home” struggle and Lightyear’s defiant character mode that fuels the movie throughout. When you find Toy Story 3 to be less satisfactory near the end, the filmmaker launches Lightyear’s Spanish mode. I tell you, even Ace Ventura wouldn’t have made me laugh like the way I did to Lightyear’s Spanish mode.

The climax shows the toys ending up in a landfill where they are about to be galloped by an incinerator. As the toys accept their imminent demise and join hands in a dramatic scene, no one would have come to a conclusion that toys are eternal pieces of plastic. But, Lee Unkrich, the director of this dramatic marvel, gives you the right kind of move and no wonder you’d be drenched with tears. It is of strange nature that these animated films about plastic pieces of junk, rusting robots, a sewer rat and even a small fish in a big sea invoke more emotions and move people deeply. Yes, I agree, much like other grown men, I did shed a tear or two. It’s because this fifteen year old saga comes to an end and what an end this is!

For once, I believe that second sequels do actually work the charm of the original. Toy Story 3 with its deftly blending comedy definitely does.

Review: Up in the Air

2009’s Best Urban Film

Up in the Air (R)

Director: Jason Reitman

Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick and Jason Bateman

Genre: Comedy-Drama

Rating: *****

And finally, I have watched one of the best films of 2009. An urban film, much corporate and passive, Up in the Air lives up to its expectations. The film is based on the novel by Walter Kim and it is the screenplay that makes magic in progress. The film stars George Clooney who plays yet another charming performance. Vera Farmiga’s role of a frequent flyer packs a punch, especially in those conversations where they reveal their mischief aboard the aircraft. Gone are the days where the lead pair met and bonded in an orchid or a lake. Here we are, meeting in the Frequent Flyers Club.

So, Ryan Bingham is a corporate downsizer who spends his time in the airport and on airplanes, flying to different cities and firing people. Isn’t that too ironic! His boss, Craig Gregory finds the internet video call idea of his trainee, Natalie Keener to be interesting as it would put his men “off the road” and he can save a lot of greens. But, Ryan disapproves the idea and also lets Craig to witness Natalie’s lacklustre efforts. Hence, Craig sends Natalie along with Ryan to learn first-hand. Amidst this clutter is the frequent appearance of Alex Goran, the woman with whom Ryan plays it casual. The characterization of the two women can be compared to Yin and Yang. Natalie is young and inexperienced, Alex is aging and highly experienced. Natalie likes to make arguments loud, Alex plays it silent. So, how does Ryan juggle between Yin and Yang? Watch Up in the Air.

The film has got me into its creative holds. The slick editing, the stylish camera angles, the sensuous sounds, all of them are a big plus. If The International was a recession-era thriller and Public Enemies, a Great Depression-era story, Up in the Air proves to be a light-hearted recession-era drama.

Indie actress, Anna Kendrick makes her much wanted breakthrough as the young  downsizer. Craig Gregory, the boss is quintessentially portrayed by Jason Bateman who with his charming looks makes the role look easy. But, Clooney offers the real punch with his surprisingly tireless appearance and monotonous voice. After Thank You For Smoking and Juno, Jason Reitman has directed another marvel.

Up in the Air is a delight to watch. Those 110 minutes would be worth your money and you’d want to watch it again. The film is routed win the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay.