Sign up FAST! Login

Does Before Midnight dodge the hardest part of relationships? | The A.V. Club

Stashed in: Conversations, Relationships, Stories, Relationships

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

The family, we learn, is staying with one of Jesse’s writer friends for the summer, and the next 15 minutes or so are spent simply riding along with them as they head back to the friend’s picturesque villa. That’s when I noticed it: As in the previous two films, Celine and Jesse can’t stop talking to each other. Though the talk is more world-weary and disillusioned than before, it still flows like a geyser and jumps from topic to topic at whiplash speed.

And all I could think was, “Really? After nine years and two kids?” I don’t mean to suggest couples have nothing left to say to one another after a few years together, just that they tend to run out of fresh anecdotes. In real life, when Celine regales Jesse with the story of her father and the cats, Jesse would interrupt and say, “You told me this one,” and Celine would reply, “Oh, sorry,” and the car would go quiet. (And after spending all day in a cramped vehicle with two kids, they probably wouldn’t mind that quiet one bit.) The truth is, most of us have a finite reservoir of stories, and one of the challenges of being in a long-term relationship is learning to do without them—learning to live, in essence, without conversational crutches.

But if asked to name the most realistic dramatizations of relationship entropy, I suspectBefore Midnight wouldn’t be the first film I’d mention. (I’d save it for a discussion of total relationship meltdown.) 

Instead, I’d probably mention Sarah Polley’s thoughtful buzz-kill Take This Waltz, in which Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen work like mad to convince themselves the fire hasn’t died, to the point of behaving like lovey-dovey barf bags. (I couldn’t stand them half the time, but it’s clear this is part of the point—they can barely stand their behavior either.) The two honestly love each another, but that love doesn’t seem to be enough to get them through the routine hours and days. There’s a memorable scene in which the two go out for a rare fancy dinner, and Williams practically has to beg Rogen to make conversation. “What is there to talk about?” he asks. “We know everything.”

There’s also Jennifer Westfeldt’s recent Friends With Kids, in which Westfeldt and Adam Scott try to avoid the relationship doldrums by skipping the relationship altogether. Instead, they’ll just be good friends who happen to share a kid. Their opposite numbers are two struggling married couples: Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd, who have a healthy sense of humor about how overfamiliar they’ve grown, and Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm, who don’t. The movie’s not perfect, but you won’t see a more blistering take on relationship entropy than the mid-film dinner scene, in which a drunken Hamm lashes out at Scott and his date (Megan Fox) for believing they can avoid his fate. “If you think Titty McTittinheimer here—Greatest Fuck Of Your Life—isn’t going to make you bored as shit one day, then you are fucking wrong,” he bellows. 

Agreed that we learn to live without conversational crutches, but new stories happen every day!

You May Also Like: