Friday, August 11, 2006
#15 (Male Performances in Review 2000-2004)
To me, one of the more puzzling trends of awards season 2004 was how Ethan Hawke never managed to get any heat for his Before Sunset campaign while co-star Julie Delpy was always listed as a potential dark-horse for various prizes. In fact, I recall a huffy rant I typed up two years ago on my RT Blog, appalled by a Warner Brothers Independent FYC ad that pushed the film, Delpy and the screenplay for awardage and yet had no mention of Hawke. True, some of those talents behind the film had better chances than he, but ultimately the Before Sunrise/Sunset saga is about the chemistry and banter between a duo. And as much as I adore Julie Delpy (see Javier's comments here) in this film, Ethan Hawke is just as integral to the film's greatness as she is. Immersing oneself in this masterpiece sequel provides a multitude of pleasures, one of which is studying how each other these characters have changed since we last saw them nine years ago. Most apparent seems to be the surprising reversal of life outlooks: once a cocky pessimistic young man, Jesse now attempts to focus on the few things that are positive about the world and his life (while Celine has become embittered and disenchanted by the many blows experienced over the course of her twenties). Despite the fact that he feels obligated to remain within a passionless marriage, he puts on a strong exterior. One of my favorite moments in the film is when he first glimpses Celine in the bookshop, but attempts to hide his elation and continue on with his group interview. You can see a hint of gleeful joy trying to escape his body while catching up with Celine in the quaint little coffee shop. Just as evident is the horny, sex-starved teenager taking control while thinking back to the intimate encounter in Venice, and considering the possibility of such a miracle happening again. It's a treasure of a performance, seemingly effortless, yet hauntingly deep and breathtaking in its complexity. Physically and mentally, he is worn out from the pressures of his home life, yet it is clear that reconnecting with Celine has renewed him. This is not an easy arc to complete (and all the while, keep the pain completely hidden and yet palpable), yet Hawke pulls it off so impressively. This is performance is a work of art, so winningly delivered and yet not a smidgeon rehearsed. Jesse's soul is so giving, and yet so desperately hungry for attention and acceptance. Hawke is so adept at giving us hints of this romantically deprived character that by the end, we are practically screaming for these two to jump each other already.