Alex Stephenson THE MACGUFFIN MEN: It was Nice to Have Met You

When The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was released in late 2009, it seemed like people didn’t really like it. I’m aware that a lot of critics dug it, and it received an impressive thirteen Academy Award nominations, but normal people didn’t seem to care for it much, and ‘normal’ is the only class of person I really care about. “I could never tell what the older Daisy was saying,” said a friend. “Brad Pitt just wanted to get to look like he did in Thelma & Louise again,” said almost every person who saw the movie. “It’s just like Forrest Gump,” said College Humor. But the main reason the movie didn’t seem to be well liked by most viewers is the same reason I kind of loved it: time.

There aren’t a lot of good romance movies out there. There are a lot of romance movies, yes, but few of them are actually good, and the best moments in the ones that don’t suck tend to be good for reasons outside of the actual romance in question. The best non-comedy scene in Going the Distance is Charlie Day’s final mini-speech to Justin Long, or Matthew Gray Gubler’s oddly natural, fourth wall-breaking speech about a character we never see in 500 Days of Summer. I don’t care for romances in shitty Sarah Jessica Parker romcoms that are clearly not aimed at me, nor do I enjoy the Tom Cruise & Michelle Monaghan ‘do you care about Ethan Hunt as a person now?’ romance aspects in action movies that are aimed at me, but I do like a good romance in a movie that isn’t really aimed at any particular group. The problem is, of course, that so few of these movies actually exist.

When I watched the 1995 film Before Sunrise on DVD in 2004, I thought it was kind of… slow. It was 100 or so minutes of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walking around Vienna and getting to know each other, just having conversations and generally being boring. There were no comically mid-90s alternative songs by Toad the Wet Sprocket on the soundtrack, and Hawke never punched anybody for looking at Delpy the wrong way or for saying Eddie Vedder is an overrated vocalist*. The premise of the movie was that Hawke (playing a character that is unfortunately named Jesse) invites Delpy (playing an appropriately-named Celine) to temporarily pause her trip home to France and spend the night walking around Vienna with him before he catches a 9:30am flight back to his home in America.

They spend the night getting to know each other, having incredibly personal conversations, and avoiding plays about cows that people on the street invite them to. The movie ends with the pair going their separate ways; Celine back to Paris, Jesse to America. And despite the pair not exchanging phone numbers or addresses, they plan to meet each other again, on the same Vienna train platform they say goodbye at, six months from that day.

*I suppose I should point out that I was 18 in 2004, which was before I realized that I kind of like movies that break away from a typical narrative structure, much like I was still unaware that Garden State isn’t very good.

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