I’ve said it before, but I love compiling this post every year. (Here’s last year’s post.) Instead of citing the best movie scripts of the year, I transcribe pieces of dialogue that I find very good. I think it’s instructive to look over the text and see what makes them great. Plus, most of these selections are really funny. As in years past, I’m reproducing the dialogue as it is in the finished film, not the dialogue from the shooting scripts, which means that the stage directions are mine and not the writers’. Also as in years past, WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE AHEAD, though not as much as usual. I wonder what that means.
I could have picked just about any stretch of Before Midnight, but this exchange (a relatively good-natured one for this movie) stuck in my mind. In this scene, our romantic heroes Jesse and Céline walk through a Greek village and discuss the latest family news. The script is by Richard Linklater and the actors in the scene, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.
JESSE: Listen to this. I was gonna wait to tell you this till later, but whatever, I’m so bad with secrets.
CÉLINE: What? You have a tumor in your brain? You gonna die?
JESSE: No, no, no. Nothing like that. All right? Well, actually, it’s kinda like that. Um, my grandmother died.
CÉLINE: What? When?
JESSE: Yeah, my dad texted me right before we ate.
CÉLINE: Oh, I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you tell me?
JESSE: Well, everybody’s been expecting it. She lived a long time, y’know, had a great life. She was ninety-six.
CÉLINE: Hmm. She didn’t live much longer after your grandfather died, huh?
JESSE: No, barely a year. I mean, the funny thing is, this woman was a freakin’ saint. Okay? She was a nurse in the war. She took care of all of us, y’know? I mean, she never said an unkind word about anybody.
CÉLINE: Ah, I wish I’d met her.
JESSE: No, it’s okay. It’s okay, because by the end, she just really wasn’t into meeting new people. I mean, after a lifetime of being sweet as pie, once Grandpa died, she got kinda ornery.
CÉLINE: Well, it happens. She was in mourning, no?
JESSE: Well, my dad said she was just waiting to die.
CÉLINE: How long were they married?
JESSE: Seventy-four years.
CÉLINE (amazed): Fuck, how is that possible?
JESSE (laughs): I know.
CÉLINE: How old will we be if we are together seventy-four years?
JESSE: Um, well, when would we start counting from?
CÉLINE: I guess from the first time we had sex. No?
JESSE: Okay, yeah, good.
JESSE: So, um, 1994.
CÉLINE: Okay, ’94.
(They pause to calculate.)
CÉLINE: Fifty-six years from now.
JESSE: Yeah. We will be ninety-eight.
(Céline groans. Jesse laughs.)
CÉLINE (laughing): Will you be able to put up with me for another fifty-six more years? I need to know, because I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to put up with you.
JESSE: It’s crazy if you think about all the change they saw. I mean, when they met, neither one of them had electricity. He used to take her to school on his horse.
CÉLINE: That’s so romantic. It’s incredible.
JESSE: I know. He was valedictorian and she was salutatorian.
CÉLINE: What is that?
JESSE: Um, he was top of the class. She was second.
CÉLINE: I bet she knowingly got a couple of answers wrong just to make sure he didn’t feel threatened.
JESSE: Well, if she wanted to get laid, she better have.
CÉLINE: Yeah, obviously, like you-know-who.
JESSE: Right. Well, anyway, so I called my dad right after I got the text, just to tell him, y’know, I was sorry. But I think I screwed up. At some point, I told him, “Hey dad, you’re an orphan now.” You know, and he didn’t think that was funny.
CÉLINE: Well, no, it’s not funny at all.
JESSE: Yeah, I guess not.
CÉLINE: He’s next, then you.
JESSE (laughs): Well, he told me that my grandparents wanna have a joint service, right? They wanna have their ashes intermingled and be buried as one.
CÉLINE: Your grandfather didn’t have a funeral?
JESSE: No, remember? They vowed to each other they’d never have to attend one another’s funeral.
CÉLINE: Oh, yeah. (slight pause) I kind of like the idea of you attending mine.
JESSE (laughs): What?
CÉLINE: No, I know. I’m imagining you in a suit, clean-shaven for once, holding hands with the girls. I don’t know, I like it.
JESSE (with certainty): You’re gonna outlive me.
CÉLINE: Well, we’ll see, or I guess one of us will see.