Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Irreplaceable One That Got Away

Last summer, while home one steamy night, I watched Before Sunrise, which was on cable. Before Sunrise starred Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and two early twenty-somethings who meet on a train and spend one perfect night together, walking the streets of Vienna.

The movie came out in 1995, when I was a depressed and cranky teen. I thought Ethan Hawke was disgusting and greasy and I was annoyed by attractive women like Julie Delpy. So I never saw it. Then in 2004, the sequel, Before Sunset, came out to rave reviews. But since I had never seen the original, and I still found Ethan Hawke greasy and disgusting (plus, I love Uma Thurman and he done her wrong!) so I skipped it.

Well, after the trip to Vienna, I was intrigued. And indeed, in terms of capturing the beauty of a European city, it definitely does the trick. But more than that, it really captured the essence of what a typical man and woman in their early 20's thinks about life and love. First, it converted me to a total Julie Delpy fan. She's beguiling. And second, even though I still think Ethan Hawke is icky, I think his acting in the film is quite good.

So tonight, I was tickled to catch Before Sunset on cable. And I do believe I liked it even more than the original, probably because of my age and because it's more bittersweet. You know I'm a bittersweet junkie.

The first thing one must accept about these films is that they are very talky. If two people walking through a beautiful city and talking about life (Vienna in the first, Paris in the second) is enough to send you into a coma, skip it. Much of the dialogue was improvised by Delpy and Hawke, who really inhabit these character. Delpy's Celine is so lovely, human, nutty and honest, and Hawke's Jesse is so funny, silly, cynical, and heart-broken. It's nice to see these characters, 9 years later, as Jesse has become more hopeful and less cynical, and Celine has become more self-protective and less naive. I think both these actors have a love for their character, and that's imbued in the portrayal.

At one point, Celine explains to Jesse that she rarely gets involved with men anymore because it hurts too much when the relationship ends - she misses people for longer. Why? Because she remembers the little details about them. She says, "You can never replace anyone because everyone is made up of such beautiful specific details." At some point in these two movies, one of the characters will say something that completely hits the nail on the head for you specifically. That line was it for me.

Anyway, if you've got an hour and a half to kill, I recommend the dark chocolatey sweetness of Before Sunset.

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