2004-08-20 / Columnists


By Robert Snyder

“Before Sunset” is 80 real-time minutes of motor-mouth talk by two actors who have nothing to say, playing characters equally as uninteresting.

The sequel to “Before Sunrise” picks up in Paris nine years after Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine’s (Julie Delpy) one-night-stand in Vienna. The liaison must have been romantic because Jesse has written a “tiny best seller” about it, while Celine tracks him down on his book tour to talk about the earth-shattering experience. Jesse is preparing to catch a plane after a reading, when he reunites with Celine. But he lets her lead him to her apartment where she imitates Nina Simone as an apparent prelude to sex.

Boy, is it a long 80 minutes trekking through the Paris streets listening to two case studies in self-absorption. We learn that after being a rock drummer, Jesse become a published writer, married someone he doesn’t love and fathered a 4-year-old son whom he does. Celine is an activist/singer with a war journalist boyfriend risking his life somewhere in the world.

Basically, the one-night-stand sucked love for anyone else out of them both. Yet, they seem to have different recollections of what actually took place before sunrise almost a decade ago. In fact, Celine says that she can’t remember whether  they consummated their relationship….a remark that doesn’t say much for Jesse’s manhood.

Still, it’s no surprise that Jesse will miss his plane. The movie ends with that non-revelation and not much else…certainly not a sex scene. Interested audience members will have to wait for the next installment to find out whether the talkers had their second one-night-stand. Director Richard Linklater (“School of Rock”) co-wrote the movie with his two stars. The man must be a saint…or a therapist.

Next time, the film maker wants to stage a talk fest, he should find subjects with stimulating thoughts. While it may be true that most people talk around a topic, entertainment often involves saying and doing nothing well. Boring conversationalists may populate the real world, but who needs to pay to hear them. Other than a brief shot of Notre Dame, we don’t even get to see much of Paris. So where are we after 80 minutes? “Before Sunset” left me in “The Twilight Zone.”

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