A charming, funny, relatable and ultimately kind of sweet directorial debut from Joseph Gordon-Levitt that is hurt by the fact that all of its characters are pretty much cartoon caricatures. This movie plays on just about every Italian-American stereotype in the book and every character's accents swings somewhere between some of the more outrageous types on The Sopranos and the castmembers of Jersey Shore (especially Scarlett Johansson's character). For many, this will provide a roadblock that makes taking this movie seriously a near impossible task. I personally could see past it because the movie is largely an exaggerated comedy but the "HEY WHAT'SAMATTAYOU"-ness of everything did make its subdued and very real-life lesson endgame seem kind of muddled and detached from the rest of the movie. Outside of all that though, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's writing approach towards sex in the digital age is pretty revelatory and hilarious. Guys will relate to his character's pornography tendencies more than they would like to admit and girls will get a peek into a world they don't normally get to see. His slightly skewed view on the dating scene, religion and family provides plenty of laughs and the warm (in context at least) conclusion of the title character being slightly less of a douche is just enough payoff to be satisfied. Don Jon is a promising premise held back by its characters but its still an impressive start to JGL's career behind the camera.
For the first time in the "Before..." series, time is not an obstacle. Both "Sunrise" and "Sunset" eventually feel like a race against the clock as Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) have their last fleeting moments together and we're unsure of how or if they'll say goodbye when the timer hits zero. Before Midnight never reaches that point. At the start of the movie, it's revealed that Jesse left his wife to be with Celine and that they've been together for nearly ten years, having plenty of conversations about life and love that were never caught on film. The time structure is also less rigid, while "Sunrise" covered an afternoon's worth of time and "Sunset" only about an hour's worth, Before Midnight follows a full days worth of activities and has a large ensemble cast that make sure that Celine and Jesse don't spend every waking moment together. So where's the tension this time around? In a move that's both obvious and fitting, Celine and Jesse's conflict is with each other this time around. As they argue over their love life, Jesse's relationship with his son from a previous marriage and if they're going to move back to the U.S., we see a new side of these characters, a side full of anger and doubt. At times it seems like Linklater is giving us front row seats to the deconstruction of the romantic myth of true love but relationships and their arguments are never that black-and-white. Love is hurtful, messy and subtle something that Before Midnight captures beautifully. The best film of 2013.