Midnight in Paris
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This is a romantic comedy set in Paris about a family that goes there because of business, and two young people who are engaged to be married in the fall have experiences there that change their lives. It's about a young man's great love for a city, Paris, and the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better.
Paris is a city that lends itself to daydreaming, to walking the streets and imagining all sorts of magic, a quality that Woody Allen understands perfectly. Midnight in Paris is Allen's charming reverie about just that quality, with a screenwriter hero named Gil (Owen Wilson) who strolls the lanes of Paris with his head in the clouds and walks right into his own best fantasy. Gil is there with his materialistic fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her unpleasant parents, taking a break from his financially rewarding but spiritually unfulfilling Hollywood career--and he can't stop thinking that all he wants to do is quit the movies, move to Paris, and write that novel he's been meaning to finish. You know, be like his heroes in the bohemian Paris of the 1920s. Sure enough, a midnight encounter draws him into the jazzy world of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Picasso and Dali, and an intense Ernest Hemingway, who promises to bring Gil's manuscript to Gertrude Stein for review. Gil wakes up every morning back in the real world, but returning to his enchanted Paris proves fairly easy. In the execution of this marvelous fantasia, Allen pursues the idea that people of every generation have always romanticized a previous age as golden (this is in fact explained to us by Michael Sheen's pedantic art expert), but he also honors Gil's need to find out certain truths for himself. The movie's on the side of gentle fantasy, and it has some literary/cinematic in-jokes that call back to the kind of goofy humor Allen created in Love and Death.The film is guilty of the slackness that Allen's latter-day directing has sometimes shown, and the underwritten roles for McAdams and Marion Cotillard are better acted than written. But the city glows with Allen's romantic sense of it, and Owen Wilson has just the right nice-guy melancholy to put the idea over. A worthy entry in the Cinema of the Daydream. --Robert Horton
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The lead male, with whom we are supposed to sympathise, was obviously told to do his very best Woody Allen impersonation, ...which he does, ...much to my irritation. We get the usual constant New York over-analytical voice-overed babble that made Allen and his many neuroses such a self-caricature in the end. The actor even dresses in ill-fitting oversize clothing, as did Allen. It's as though Allen really wanted to play the lead himself, but he was too old so he just hired an impersonator.
That aside, ....the film opens with a lingering homage to Paris, ...the "tourist" Paris, ...which is probably the one we all want to see anyway. For some inexplicable reason known only to Allen it's all shot through a deep orange gel. I can only suggest it was meant to symbolise "warm memories"?
If indeed this is the case then those memories must have been viewed through one of those Tandoori Chicken spray-tans we see on women nowadays.
The story itself has been well documented here. It requires you to suspend disbelief and ignore holes in the plot large enough to run the Metro through, but it's one of those movies where you can thoroughly enjoy sitting back and just letting it all wash over you. The strongest performances are all from bit players, ....Kathy Bates is a standout as Gertrude Stein.
The bride-to-be's parents are truly obnoxious American snobs, ....sadly not all that hard to find in today's Paris, although the mother does get some of the best lines.
Wait for "And cheap is cheap I say!" Perfect!
The bride herself is just SO vapid, shallow and self-obsessed that you cannot believe even the Woody Allen impersonator could ever have fallen for her in the first place, much less made it right through engagement and onto the impending marriage situation.
It's not giving anything away when I say that you too will know in about the first 15 minutes that she will be found out as having it off with the "know-it-all".
What is interesting about this movie is that the "real" people are just character "types", ......one dimensional and very stereotyped, while the fantasy characters have much more depth and end up stealing the show, ...along with the romantic City of Paris, which is probably the real star.
A case of imagination being stronger than reality perhaps?
I must confess that I have a fascination with Paris, ( I live there for six or so months each year), and the characters we see in the periods revisited during the course of this movie, so the historical re-creations of both people and places held the most interest for me.
You'll all know where this movie is going, but the journey is a very pleasant and picturesque one if you are able to just go along with it all. It's a fantasy, and whether any of it is meant to be actuality or it all takes place in the lead's over-active imagination doesn't really matter.
(No, he doesn't seem to drink absinthe at any stage.....)
Personally I'd have dreamed up some serious injuries indeed to get out of marrying the air-head and becoming part of her profoundly irritating family. That's injury for them, .....not me.
I kept hoping he'd throw her off the troisieme etage of the Eiffel Tower and push Mom & Dad under a speeding Metro!
The know-it-all gets EXACTLY what he deserves in the end,(hurrah!) ......although I thought the VERY attractive, well mannered and bright guide at the Musee Rodin a far better prospect than the teenager from the flea markets for Mr. Allen.....sorry, I must remember it was Owen Wilson!
But then Mr. Allen always had that penchant for VERY YOUNG girls didn't he!
Probably goes a long way towards explaining the ending.......
Trivial Footnote: I wonder why the poster specifically references Van Gogh's night sky over Paris when that particular artist is never mentioned at all in the film?
Directed by Woody Allen
Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates and Adrien Brody
2011 | 94 min | PG-13 | 1.85:1 | Theatrical Release Date June 10, 2011
***This review contains spoilers***
The Film 5/5
Woody Allen has directed more than 40 movies and Midnight in Paris is one of his best. It's a gentle comedy with a strong fantasy element. Like most of Allen's movies, it relies on good writing and clever dialogue.
The fantasy element changes the entire feel of the movie, and although it's revealed early in the story, I don't want to ruin it for anyone. However, this would be a very short review if I didn't mention it at all. So please be warned that the remainder of the review contains spoilers. If you don't want to know, it's time to stop reading.
The story is built around Gil Pender (Wilson), who arrives in Paris with his fiancée, Inez (McAdams). He's a writer hoping to find inspiration and she wants to see some of the local sights. The two explore the city with friends Paul (Sheen) and Carol. Paul claims to be an authority on everything and Gil is annoyed by him, but Inez used to have a crush on Paul and enjoys his company.
One evening, Gil decides that he will take a walk alone to get away from Paul. He's a little drunk and manages to get lost, and eventually finds himself sitting on some steps at midnight. It's here that the entire movie changes. A vintage car stops and the people inside urge Gil to get in. They take him to a party and he discovers that Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald are among the guests. He's surprised at their names, and even more baffled when he's introduced to Ernest Hemingway.
Gil has traveled back into the 1920s.
What would you say to Fitzgerald and Hemingway if you were an aspiring writer? Gil is both astonished and thrilled to be in their presence and mentions that he's also a writer. The trip to the past isn't permanent and he wakes up in the present the next morning. Was it just a dream, or was it real? Allen never explains how Gil returns from the past.
He tries to reenact the event, taking Inez with him, but she leaves before midnight. When the clock strikes, the car appears again and he's back in the past. He's introduced to other famous artists, singers and writers, and Gertrude Stein (Bates) critiques his manuscript. Gil seems at home in the 1920s and happier than when he is with Inez in the present. The people seem to understand him better and he fits right in.
The story is filled with interesting encounters. The characters spend a lot of time talking, and Allen's imagination keeps things more than interesting. I found it quite gripping. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Hemingway and was reminded of Dan Simmons' fictional book about him, The Crook Factory. Every encounter with people from 1920s Paris was both charming and intriguing. I found myself imagining how they must have lived, and what it would be like to exist in such a creative environment.
The audience in my theater laughed often and everyone left with a smile on their face. It was a magical experience seeing people such as Dali (Brody) and Picasso before they were famous. The setting was perfect, showing the contrast between modern Paris and the city as it was almost a century ago.
Wilson was as good as I have ever seen him in the role that Allen presumably would have played in his youth. I like Wilson's quirky delivery and his character wasn't too far removed from the one he played in The Darjeeling Limited. Gil enjoys defying expectations and isn't understood by his friends and potential in-laws.
All of the acting impressed me and Sheen was just about perfect as the insufferable Paul. The story was imaginative and different, and not at all what I expected. I left the theater grinning and charmed by the whole story. Allen's last Oscar came in 1987 when he won for Best Screenplay (Hannah and Her Sisters). I wouldn't be surprised if Midnight in Paris received a couple of nominations, and he might just win a fourth Oscar.
If you enjoy Woody Allen at all, Midnight in Paris is well worth a trip to the theater. Its charm will draw you in and the dialogue will make you laugh.