Midnight in Paris (2011)
Directed by Woody Allen
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams
While talking to a friend about the film, I realized I spoiled some important details for him. I try my best to discuss films with friends without giving away too much, but I realized my mistake when it was too late. To prevent that happening again, please be advised that there might be some spoilers in this review.
Woody Allen’s latest is definitely one of his best in recent memory. In a lot of Allen’s work, there is romance brewing in the air between and around all the central characters. In Midnight in Paris, the love stems from our protagonist and is shared throughout the entire city of Paris. For a romantic, what’s there not to love about Paris?
After a montage with dozens of clips taken of Paris, we meet Gil (Wilson) and Inez (McAdams), an engaged couple who are enjoying a vacation in Paris. Gil is a romantic. He discovers an endless list of beauty about Paris, arguing it’s as beautiful in the day as it is at night and insisting to walk in the rain. Inez isn’t as fond of Paris as her fiance and she shocks him when she says she wants a house in Malibu, California. She’s also not as fond of Gil’s struggle to write his first novel as she is to her friend Paul’s extensive knowledge of art and culture. In fact, it’s a sickening type of fondness, one almost comparable to a groupie of a touring rock band.
To escape from Inez’ unwillingness to support Gil’s opinion, he decides to take a stroll around Paris. Half drunk when the clock strikes midnight, an old-fashioned car stops in front of him and merry people invite him to a party. This is where all of the magic begins. Gil finds himself back in the 1920’s, conversing with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and most importantly, Adriana. At first, Gil doesn’t believe his eyes, but he soon accepts this fantasy and allows his love for nostalgia to take over his mind and heart.
One must simply accept the fantasy aspect of the film, just like how Gil does, to really enjoy Midnight in Paris. Allen never explains how it’s possible for Gil to spend time with these historic figures, and I’m glad he doesn’t. Eventually, this infatuation puts Gil in a love-triangle dilemma. While traveling back in time he meets Adriana (Cotillard) and even though she’s sought after Picasso and Hemingway, Gil falls in love with her. His passion for Adriana makes him realize what he doesn’t have with Inez, but how could he be in love with someone from a different generation?
I will admit that I have my doubts with Owen Wilson for many of his movies, but he was a pleasant surprise throughout Midnight in Paris. He had that childish charm when he met his idols and had an innocence when expressing his deep love for Paris. He instilled that guideless love for Adriana and ignorance with Inez. It was a solid performance by Owen Wilson, but arguably a better casting job.
It’s difficult for me to really grade the other performances in the film because I’m not very familiar with the personal lives of these historic figures, rather their works of art. But the one who really stood out for me was the always beautiful Marion Cotillard. Aside from the crucial role she played in the film, her way of delivering a sort of free-spirit tied down to the beauty of Paris, only to share in the same nostalgia that Gil contains, is marvelously engaging. Not to mention this film should’ve felt like home for the French actress.
Overall, Midnight in Paris was a truly delightful film to enjoy. Its themes deal with the passion of love, how important it is to explore outside of what you know, and the feeling of nostalgia as a compass that should guide the present. Personally, I’m not one whoh enjoys traveling and those who know me will nod their heads very emphatically. But after seeing this film, I wouldn’t mind taking a trip to Paris one day.