Passes the Bechdel test? No, basically all the conversation is between Jesse and Celine; the films would fail a male Bechdel test too.
Did I like them? All in it is a bit of a mixed bag. Now I see the film again, Ethan Hawke is much more of a dweeb than I remembered; he looks and acts a bit rat-like and I really have little patience with his dalliances with spirituality. On the other hand, Julie Delpy is much more amazing than I remembered. Not only is she pretty and charming (which is common enough), but what stands out is how strong her character is. She is forward, has her own problems and opinions, and is very strongly an anti-Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
A Manic Pixie What? The manic pixie dream girl is a trope that is pretty common in film. Essentially it is every guy’s dream; a lightly manic, happy girl, that has no problems of her own, and helps to propel the character story of the male protagonist (Zooey Deschanel excels at that role unfortunately). In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (a film I love to bits), Kate Winslet’s character reject the MPDG label, and I think that that awareness is one of the things that makes Eternal Sunshine an exceptional movie:
Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.
This video is a good primer on the concept:
Something I learned: Some of the unsourced factoids I throw around in random conversation (like the fact that happiness tends to be fairly stable, so unhappy people that win the lottery will end up being unhappy people with expensive cars, while happy people that get paralyzed will end up being happy people in a wheelchair) are mentioned in the movie, and given how long I have quoted this, it is very well possible that this film was my main source of this factoid. Oops.
Final verdict: Although I find the films less amazing than earlier, they are still really well made, and I really love the characters. Also, I discovered that they might release a sequel in 2013. I really like the concept as Before Sun-something turning into a 9-yearly franchise that is a window into the real life of a couple every 9 years, so I will really want to watch this sequel too. Earlier I gave these films an 8/10. I think that that is a bit high, so for now they will have to live at a still very able 7/10.