Picks and Pans Review: Before Sunrise

UPDATED 02/06/1995 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 02/06/1995 at 01:00 AM EST

Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

By some measures, this tiny romantic comedy about a goateed young American (obviously not Delpy) who starts up a romance with a gorgeous graduate student (that's Delpy) on a train to Vienna isn't all that bad. For one thing it's great to look at—the cinematography is clean and unfussy, not at all travelogish—and it ambles along nicely enough, as the couple stroll about the city at night. Hawke isn't much fun as an actor—he seems stuck in some sort of pupa state—but Delpy is interesting: a serene beauty whose voice and gestures are unexpectedly frank and direct.

What drove me crazy about Before Sunrise was this couple's endless talking. Or, rather, blather. The pertinent biographical details tend to be smothered—like bits of meat in a bland, glutinous sauce—by notions that sound like they were picked up from college courses in anthropology, sociology, psychology, literature, whatnot. You wouldn't think a twentysomething, leather-jacketed guy with stubble on his chin, let alone a student at the Sorbonne, could sound like pod people—earnest, impersonal, plodding—without eventually realizing that this was no way to communicate.

Before Sunrise is particularly disappointing because it was directed and written (with Kim Krizan) by Richard Linklater, the 34-year-old moviemaker who showed an appreciation for countercultural conversational flakiness in 1991's Slacker. There the young characters nattered on about conspiracy theories, Madonna's body fluids and the connection between Krishna and Smurfs. Before Sunrise has only a few such characters, and they're delightful—especially a Viennese man who's in a play about a cow that thinks it's a dog. This man invites Hawke and Delpy to the play, and you spend the rest of the movie wondering when oh when will they get to that theater? Then they forget to go. (R)

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