“While on a trip to Paris with his fiancée’s family, a nostalgic screenwriter finds himself mysteriously going back to the 1920s every day at midnight.”
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Staring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy, Michael Sheen, Tom Hiddleston, Cory Stoll, Adrien Brody, Léa Seydoux, Marion Cotillard
Where To Watch: Amazon Prime
Release Date: June 10, 2011
Gil (Owen Wilson) is on vacation in Paris, France with his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams). They are tagging along on Inez’s parents business trip, so they are taking in the city as they seem fit. However, their views on Paris and the romantic auras around the city differ. Gil loves the 1920s “golden age” as he calls it, where artists of all kinds were exploring themselves and society’s culture. As a a former corporate Hollywood writer evolving into a new novelist, Gil connects with this romantic struggle of achieving important artful significance. Gil’s fantasies of experiencing this literary fiscal time comes to tangible life at midnight when the bells toll, and as a result, Gil begins to rethink his life, his perspective and his future.
The one undeniable fact about Midnight In Paris (2011) is that it is beautifully shot. As snobby as I can sound, this film is put together like art. It frames the city of Paris in all of its different environments; the back alleys, the tourism spots, the shopping centers, the restaurants (both expensive and cheap) and, as is heavily mentioned in the movie, in the rain. Gil likes the have the city wash over him, and that rain allows it too easily do so. Midnight In Paris was nominated for Best Directing and Best Achievement in Art Design, both well deserved.
A movie can not be purely canvas. There needs to be individuals who fill the page. And there are a TON of people in Midnight In Paris. Kathy Bates plays Gertrude Stein, Kurt Fuller plays Inez’s father, Michael Sheen plays Paul, Tom Hiddleston plays F. Scott Fitzgerald, Corey Stoll plays Ernest Hemingway, Marion Cotillard plays Adriana, Léa Seydoux plays Gabrielle and Adrien Brody plays Salvador Dali. That is a STAR studded cast. There are roles that last less than five minutes total on screen, but everyone has a chance to show off whatever chops they bring that day. Midnight In Paris was proof to me that Woody Allen of yesteryear is like Wes Anderson of now.
Among all the conversations in Midnight In Paris, the most poignant comes in the final goodbye between Gil and Adriana. The two disagree on what era the true golden age is. Adriana, who lives in the 1920s as her present, sees the decades prior as her favorite time period, while Gil is adamant that Adriana’s lifetime is the true time of fulfillment. In their arguing Gil says a line that’s profound to everyone.
“Yeah, that’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying.” – Gil
“That’s the problem with writers. You are so full of words.” – Adriana
In a succinct 91 minutes, Midnight In Paris leads the audience on a story that illustrates the beauty and danger of nostalgia and bliss. The purposeful choice to make the time traveling seamless rather than in-your-face shows how anyone can slip into what they deem ideal and comfortable. Everyone’s Golden Age is different. That’s the tragedy of life and timing. It is hard to time up your present circumstance with your perfect lifestyle. Compromise is needed, unless you are an artist who much never cheat on their values or morals. Hence why Gil is put into such a touch spot.
One of the only gripes I have about Midnight In Paris is the ending. Gil breaks up with Inez and is wondering along the streets of Paris contemplating his life. When crossing over a bridge, Gil meets up with Gabrielle, who he briefly talked to at a market about music and Parisian art appreciation. They exchange words, and it begins to rain. The pair learn they have something very unique in common; they both love Paris in the rain. They walk off into what people presume is a happier future.
Midnight In Paris focuses solely on Gil and his character, and while he does learn a bit about himself and the city through his journey, he does not get a chance to experience it…alone. Gabrielle being there on the bridge (heavy symbolism) reminds me a lot of Autumn coming up at the end of 500 Days Of Summer (2009). In that rom-com I think it is okay because the film is not as serious is nature. In Midnight In Paris, I would have like an uplifting but quiet ending. A little Sound Of Metal (2019) type of ending. Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) is sitting alone on a park bench contemplating the environment around him. I think Gil’s ending could have followed the same path.
Woody Allen won his fourth Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at the 2012 Academy Awards. He did not attend the ceremony, which was and still is the norm for him. Allen wasn’t a fan of cinema’s biggest awards ceremony even before the allegations that came forward with him allegedly molesting and his adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow in the early 1990s. Those allegations came back to like when an HBO documentary series Allen v. Farrow (2021) was released earlier this year.
Speaking strictly for myself, I have a major blind spot with Woody Allen movies. I have only seen two movies of his, the last two American produced movies that put Allen in the awards picture; Midnight In Paris and Blue Jasmine (2013).
STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)
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