In Midnight In Paris Woody Allen puts aside all the cynicism and social commentary that constantly cloud over his films, and creates a beautiful homage to Paris, life, and love.
Before going onto the plot, I should warn readers that if you haven’t seen the film skip over this next paragraph because describing the central story without revealing spoilers is next to impossible. Allen has created such a delightful fantasy that it would be unfair not to describe and celebrate the twist of imagination.
The movie follows Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams), who are set to tie the knot within the next few months and are on business vacation, with her parents, in Paris. Gil is a second-rate screenwriter in Hollywood and has decided to write a novel.
While in Paris, they bump into Inez’s old friend Paul (Michael Sheen), an upper-class, snotty, arrogant man who is in Paris with his wife.
Gil is in love. With what is debatable. He dreams of the golden age fo 1920s Paris, walks around the city in the rain, and embraces the nostalgia of what he thinks was a “better-time”. One night, Gil roams farther than usual and when the bell elegantly rings at Midnight, a taxi cab pulls up and transports Gil to his dream era, the 1920s.
It’s here where the film becomes enchanting. Gil meets Earnest Hemingway, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Scott Fitzgerald, Luis Bunel, among other iconic artists from the golden age.
To Gill, this is heaven. To the audience, this is heaven. We are delighted to see Gil be so happy – and every step of the way we meet people who we’ve only heard stories of or have, at one time, marveled at their work.
This is a film dedicated to English professors and romantics. What do I know? I’ve read next to none of Hemingway’s or Fitzgerald’s work. But it’s not about what you’ve read, it’s that you know who they are, their existence, and their impact on modern society. Seeing these legendary artists on the screen is delightful.
I can only imagine how much fun Allen had writing this script, which is full of historical anecdotes that connect the underlining love story.
Perhaps the only fault of the film is that any time Gil leaves the ’20s for the present time, the story stumbles. Inez is still infatuated with Paul, and it’s clear that Gil is slowly losing interest in her. Wilson and McAdams are quite simply not believable together. Polar opposites may attract, but they don’t tie the knot. It makes the central problem of the film tedious. Not for a second do you believe Gil would fall for Inez – who’s annoying and unsupportive of Gil.
For the first time, I can honestly say McAdams gives a mediocre performance. With that being said, for the first time one can proudly proclaim Wilson’s performance is magnificent. He is a near carbon-copy of a young Woody Allen – the ramblings, the messed up nose, and the quirkiness that sparks each and every film.
Just last week I had my weekly post labeled “Battle of the Directors”. Here we discussed which filmmaker you preferred Woody Allen or Spike Lee. People chose Allen by a landslide. I was shocked. I know many people can’t stand Allen - the complaining, the constant chatter of dying etc. But even those who have a hard time tolerating Allen and his ramblings on Bergman and death will still have something to appreciate in Midnight in Paris.
With “Paris,” Allen argues people are always unsatisfied with the time they live in. They think back to another generation and believe it was so much grander in comparison. Allen shows that no matter what era you live in, you never quite understand its value.
Midnight In Paris — which is Allen’s 41st film — reminds us of what we’ve come to love about his work, “Manhattan” and “Hannah and Her Sisters” for example, over the past four decades. And though Midnight In Paris may not resonate as those earlier films did, it’s still an absolute delight — a lovely example of Hemmingway’s movable feast set in the wondrous City of Lights.