Movie sequels almost always fall under a few genre categories: Sci-fi, horror, and comedy. Seldom do you see sequels to relationship dramas that don't contain horror elements, epic sci-fi plots, or elements of parody. That's why Richard Linklater's continuing stories of Jesse and Celine in his "Before Sunrise" movie series remains such an unusual cinematic endeavor. And now "Before Midnight" flies in the face of the idea that recurring sequels about ordinary lives can't receive a green light from a studio.
Linklater's pristine reputation in the film industry with mainstream hits no doubt helped as well, despite "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" managing to have vast amounts of dialogue without studio meddling. The only thing comparable in sequel count is based on real life, or Michael Apted's brilliant and continuing "Up" series. Now up to eight films chronicling the lives of 14 British people ("56 Up" released in January), it gives an idea of how fascinating it is to follow individual lives through the changing landscape of time and place.
But if real life is always a challenge to supersede in cinema, will Linklater set a new template for more sequels of fictional relationship dramas? I'm not talking the straight-to-DVD Disney sequel model where "Cinderella 2" ends up showing us what happens after the "happily ever after" doctrine fails. Audiences should be able to absorb the continuing story of fictional couples or groups of friends that became or become essential moments in film pop culture.
In that regard, why not a sequel to something such as "The Big Chill" where we see updates on those classic characters 30 years later? Or what about continuing the story of the family in Alexander Payne's recent "The Descendants" to see how they progress into the future? All of that would be for the sake of gaining insight into the nature of interesting characters rather than doing the sequel just because they can.
The above sequels have to be for recent movies and not of the variety where "Casablanca" follows up 72 years later. As well, certain films have to be set aside as single snapshots into a particular time period. That's where the real debate comes in on deciding which films deserve to continue as insights into the human condition.
I'll expect the comment section to light up with my considering the very idea of sequels. Coming from someone who usually considers sequels mostly unnecessary, this idea has to be handled with aplomb and only for the most interesting characters that beg to be followed up on. From an economic perspective, it also likely wouldn't be feasible other than primarily in the indie circuit.
Regardless, if the original "Star Wars" cast can reunite for "Star Wars: Episode VII", why not round up big stars again for mainstream relationship dramas? Creating long arcs for compelling characters is what makes filmmaking worth existing, especially when the setting is the real world. Follow-ups to those characters every three to five years also wouldn't interfere with the actors making other films in-between.
Let's hope that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy's Jesse and Celine characters continue to old age in Linklater's "Before" series. Other characters as interesting as they are should be allowed to have as many fascinating left turns in their lives. That way, fiction might be able to stay on the same interesting path as reality if utilizing a very astute writer.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Richard Linklater