We've all had those romantic fantasies: Travel back in time to whatever period suits your fancy, hang out with all the dead bigwhigs we learned about in history class, and bask in the eclecticism and excitement of one of history's greatest eras. But rarely is it that those little fantasies take into consideration what the golden gods of the eras we dream about think of them.
Over the last few years, it appears the indie film legend Woody Allen has been presenting filmgoers with some of his finest work. Match Point dealt with the idea of complacent love and passion before the ending destroyed the rest of it. Vicky Christina Barcelona found a similar theme in the idea of romantic passion in polyamory and the potential consequences of it. Midnight in Paris also explores a romantic idea, but instead of a person, the main character in the movie has a romantic ideal of a place. The person who's supposed to be the main character's fiance, in fact, tends to get in the way. But it's in this idea that Allen manages to present people with one of cinema's rarest and most wonderful creatures: I fantasy movie for adults.
Gil Pender is a very successful Hollywood screenwriter who is visiting Paris for what is apparently not the first time. Gil loves Paris, and in the opening monologue, he raves about the little pleasures of traveling there. Through the magnificent cinematography of Darius Khondji, we can easily experience Gil's deep love for one of the most historic and celebrated cities in the world. The opening montage of Midnight in Paris gives us a series of single, unmoving camera scenes, highlighting the magic lure of the legendary City of Light from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe, the fountains, quaint cobblestone streets and coffee shops, and everything in between. Gil is engaged to a girl named Inez, and is in Paris vacationing with her and her wealthy parents. Inez thinks Gil should get his head out of the clouds and has designs on settling in a big home in Malibu. They are joined by Inez's friend Paul, a pseudo-intellectual whom Inez's family loves to death. Gil can't stand him and calls him out for what he is.
Gil also has a thing for literature's Lost Generation, that period in Paris in the 1920's that produced such print heavyweights like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Ernest Hemingway. One night in a drunken haze, he stumbles into some stairs at the midnight bell. At that point, a car from the 1920's drives up to Gil and beckons to him, inviting him to go with them to a party. When Gil arrives at the party and finds himself enjoying fine conversation with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, he realizes he's somehow slipped through time and ended up in the generation of writers he admires most. Soon he encounters Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, who become his mentors, and he begins to fall in love with a woman named Adriana, who is the mistress of Pablo Picasso.
The main relationships between the characters in the movie tend to shift a lot as Gil becomes fascinated with Hemingway, Stein, and finally Adriana. Hemingway and Stein become kind of his mentors; Gil, who is working on his first novel, craves the approval of their expertly discriminating eyes and brings them his book to let them criticize. Although his relationships with those two never disappears, the shift slowly begins to move onto his relationship with Adriana, and he begins to awaken to the problems with the relationship between him and Inez. Inez is a beautiful woman, no question; but she is clearly not a compliment to the romantic Gil. She is a rich pragmatist who is always thinking about her own comfort level - there's a scene in which she shops for furniture for the home in Malibu she believes Gil will buy for them - and she has no respect or understanding of the greater depths of the world around her. For her, the world is an accessory, appreciation of little things is wasting time, and looking for hidden meanings or depths is a nuisance. She never really is a likable character, but she was never intended to be.
Gil's true affection, though, isn't reserved just for Adriana, but for the era she came out of. Paris in the 1920's today is revered as a collective of some of the century's greatest writers, but the literati themselves tend to look at past eras through nostalgia goggles of their very own. Gil is one of those people who considers that city in that particular period to be the pinnacle of creativity. Gil, like many critics, thinks the art of the past is superior to what's new and modern. But what people constantly forget is that all of those past eras we're so busy praising had far more trash than great art too. It just happens to be the art that gets remembered, which makes perfect sense. So when Gil is transported to his dream era, he is surprised to find that his idols all wear nostalgia rose goggles of their very own. Adriana in particular believes the most creative era in history was the Paris of the 1890's, and later in the movie she is offered a chance to visit 1890's Paris in much the same way Gil returned to 1920's Paris.
A remarkable aspect of Midnight in Paris is just how small and simplified it is. It follows just a single main character and a small handful of supporting characters, and that's really all Allen needs to make his point. It keeps everything easy to follow, and so Allen doesn't make the mistake of getting caught up in sweeping discussions about nostalgia or philosophy. He is once again pulling a certain condition out of humanity and giving it a spotlight, exploring it and trying to visit it from a few angles. Characters are discarded sometimes; F. Scott Fitzgerald isn't seen after their first meeting, and Zelda isn't seen very much afterward either. This minimization can be off-putting, and I would have liked to see some more interaction with Fitzgerald and Picasso. But it also keeps the movie from getting bogged down by its own stock characters or scenes. At 94 minutes, it's perfect.
Owen Wilson plays Gil, and in Gil, Allen channels the old scittish character he made popular in the first place. Although Wilson's drawl doesn't make him look like an Allen-like character, you can see Allen himself reciting Gil's lines and adopting Gil's mannerisms had Midnight in Paris been made in the 70's. (There I am now, evoking one of the golden ages of the movies.) Rachel McAdams plays Inez, a Rachel McAdams-like character (a complete (expletive deleted)). The actors who play Hemingway and Stein also stand out.
Woody Allen makes a simple observation in Midnight in Paris which is thoughtful because of the way in which it frequently eludes us. He attempts to argue that nostalgia is just an illusion, and he does it in a way that really sticks. Midnight in Paris is a fantastic movie. Allen is a writer, and writers make observations like that.
Not being an Owen Wilson fan, despising most of his roles with the exception of Wedding Crashers, I had no intention of seeing this film. It caught my attention while I was flipping channels on one of my movie stations (I think it was on Starz). Wilson is engaged to Rachel McAdams (hey this was the pairing in Wedding Crashers) and they go to Paris with McAdams' parents. McAdams seems to be only interested in shopping for expensive jewelry and putting down Wilson's taste in the finer things of life. … more
**** out of **** While watching "Midnight in Paris", I was confronted by a simple question, and that was: why can't more people make movies completely devoid of villains - with the substitution of smaller, less conflicting problems? Woody Allen is the writer and director of this film; and there's a general sense that he must have asked himself the same questions when he approached the script. Here is a film with a complete disregard for who is good and who is bad; there are … more
Midnight In Paris is one of my favorite movies I have seen so far this year. Its more than a love story about people, its a love story written to the city of Paris. The fantasy story about a writing meeting his historical heroes in the city of Paris, is witty, intelligent, and one that I would want to see again. I will be waiting in line for the DVD release. Owen Wilson is the Woody Allen persona. Woody has not always been successful in finding other actors to give his voice … more
Owen Wilson stars as Gil, a burned-out Hollywood script writer who's visiting Paris with his fiancée. The couple have very different opinions of Paris and of life in general; she hates the city and wants to hurry back to her Beverly Hills life while he adores Paris and wishes he had lived there in the 1920s. One night, at midnight, Gil's fantasy comes true as he is magically transported to the glittering world of Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, Picasso, and Gertrude Stein. … more
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Written and Directed by Woody Allen Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard and Michael Sheen Inez: The studios adore you; you’re in demand. Do you really want to give it all up just to struggle? Every time I review a Woody Allen movie, it seems I address the same issues time and time again. This is likely because Allen always chooses to tackle the same themes – class, … more
I know critics are supposed to be objective (if that's even possible) but in the case of Woody Allen's new film, 'Midnight In Paris' it's going to be really hard. I thought it was one of the most beautiful, original, magical and romantic films I've seen in a very long time. It completely grabbed my heart. The film opens with images of Paris...beautiful, moving images. The lights of the city, the empty streets, … more
Midnight in Paris crosses lands of opportunity and delusion in real life. It symbolizes the sane journey of one dreamer to fulfill his personal goals. Woody Allen's new film is also a mash-up between Vicky Cristina Barcelona and the baroque epoque if I could say that. Allen loves to describe cities as people and loves to deliver that suitable atmosphere. He throws a goofy writer, a stuck-up snob, a modern spoiled woman, a classy "femme", and a whole diary of artsy figures … more
Star Rating: There is, I’m certain, inherent in most people a nostalgia for a time and a culture they were never a part of. The reason is that they feel somehow disconnected or ill at ease with the present; they don’t like today’s music, or today’s painters, or today’s writers, or today’s movies. Because they believe everything was done better in the past, it becomes the standard for which all new things are measured. Woody … more
Midnight in Paris is a 2011 romantic comedy film written and directed by Woody Allen, premiering at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival in May 2011. Produced by Spanish group Mediapro and Allen's Gravier Productions, the film stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni, and Adrien Brody.