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Before Sunrise

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 06/19/02 10:29:17

"One day, in a Richard Linklater movie, something will actually happen."
3 stars (Average)

Okay, so before anyone gets the idea that I'm not a romantic, I want to point out the contrary. I was quoted on the back of the Australian video release of What Dreams May Come, as saying it was "the film of the year." I shed tears at the end of Message In A Bottle. And when I sat down to view Before Sunrise, I did so in the arms of a loved one. That said, this movie pretty much sucked.

Sure, sure, it was all touchy feely in all the right places. Yes, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke make a likeable couple. Sure, the setting for the film, Vienna, makes for a great backdrop. All the elements were there. What wasn't there was much of anything else.

Richard Linklater likes the words. He loves the words. He's one of those guys you'd walk away from in a coffee-house because he has an opinion on damn near everything, and none of those opinions are really that groundbreaking. If you put the average college student in front of a microphone for ninety minutes and just let them talk, they'd sound a lot like Linklater's characters, and we all know how retarded most college students are.

Ethan Hawke is rolling through Europe with his Rail Pass when he encounters a pleasantly attractive, not unintelligent girl (Julie Delpy) across the carriage for him. He macks on said girl, who is on her way to Paris, and convinces her to jump off the train with him in Vienna. Together they wander the streets for a night, falling for each other and cramming as much romance as they can into the hours - before sunrise - when Ethan-baby has to catch a flight back to the USA. That's what happens. That's all that happens. You're watching a blind date between two people who have no money with which to do much, and so they talk. And talk. And talk.

When Linklater found critical acclaim with his first film, Slacker, it was much the same - plenty of talk, no story, just characters and locations and a lot of theory. If all Linklater was trying to do with Before Sunrise was create a harmless and forgettable 'one night romance', he pulled it off with aplomb. But seeing as he's recently gone to the 'chatty' mattresses once again with his mind-numbingly boring animated version of Slacker, Waking Life, I tend to think Before Sunrise is nothing more than yet another revisiting of Slacker - this one a commerical version.

Now, far be it from me to tell you that there's nothing pleasant about Before Sunrise. There's plenty pleasant about it, but there's not much beyond the scope of pleasant throughout the film.

Imagine, if you will, you sent a camera crew out to follow you on your next blind date. You meet a nice enough girl, you go out, have a meal, get a little drunk, wander around and talk and by the end of the evening you're kissin'. Sounds a little like Blind Date, Fifth Wheel, Elimidate, Rendez-view - any other number of crappy 'datin shows', right? Now picture a one hour Blind Date special in Vienna and you've got Before Sunrise.

It's nice to watch folks falling for each other, and unlike the roles he's botched in much of his career, Ethan Hawke is just fine here. I mean, he still has that arse-fluff goatee he insists on wearing, but since he *sounds* like a college student, the pre-teen goatee kind of suits the character.

Julie Delpy, too, is very easy to watch. She's a fine actress and handles Linklater's mushmouth dialogue very impressively, especially considering she's not American. If there was anyone else in the entire film with more than three lines of dialogue, I'd tell you about them - but there's not. There's Ethan and Jules - like them or hit 'eject'.

So why, if I'm a romantic at heart, do I not dig the Before Sunrise vibe? Simply because I didn't feel enlightened by any of it. Not the dialogue, not the events, not the people. Two people ride the train, get off the train, walk and talk. That's just not a movie, folks, that's TV.

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