Midnight in Paris Reviews
The story concerns a successful Hollywood screenwriter named Gil and his fiancee Inez on vacation in Paris with her parents. While there, Gil tries to work on a novel and do something more substantial with his life than just be a Hollywood hack. Through magical circumstances, he finds himself transported through a time slip at midnight to Paris during the 1920s, wherein he finds himself hanging out with his idols like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso.
Inez, her friends, and her family all think he's nuts, but this just might be the best thing that's ever happened to Gil, and could very well be the spark he's been searching for to make his life complete.
This is utterly and completely Allen, charming, nostalgic, and fun. It's impossible to watch this and not feel moved, delighted, and overwhelmed with happiness. It's all laid on pretty thick, but it never comes off as sentimental or sickly sweet in a bad way. It's light and fun, and easy to fall in love with. Yeah, it's total wish fulfillment in a sense, but who cares? It's just an utter joy to experience.
It's got some typical Allen-isms, but the situation it presents is well done, creative, and fun. Allen's not known for having much visual flair or pizzaz with his work, but this film has some excellent cinematography and definitely applies as a visual work of art. The city looks excellent, and the 20s scenes really come alive thanks to his touch.
Owen WIlson does nice work as the happily perplexed Gil, doing the Woody role without coming off as a ripoff. Rachel McAdams is fine as Inez, but seems to get overshadowed. Then again, it's kinda is appropriate given the plot. The real stars though are the supporting players, namely Marion Cotillard as Picasso's mistress, Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, and Allison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald. The others are good, but sometimes come off as more caricature and phony. Though I do think Corey Stoll's Hemingway is pretty fantastic.
I really don't have a whole lot of negatives. Yes, I did mention how some of the performances stick out, but that's not a complete deal breaker. The film had me guessing about how it would end, and I was partially right, but that also isn't a complete detriment to things. I think my biggest gripe is that the film had to end.
Give this one a shot. It helps if you're already a Woody fan, as that makes it easier to get into, but you don't have to be a fan to fall in love.
I wasn't terribly impressed with Marion Cotillard either. One of the only details I remember from "You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger" is the first, glorious shot of Freida Pinto, and I was expecting equal glory in the shot of Marion, but alas, the murky lighting against her dark hair and raccoon eye make-up deadens her glow. Her acting also seems a bit dead. The only time she lights up is in the Belle Epoque when she gasps at the sight of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Then again, maybe that's the point...we all think we'd be happiest in another era. Argh.
So you see, I technically haven't MISSED the point - nostalgia is a passive not active pleasure. I just wanted some more substance. Carla Bruni and Alison Pill are respectively willowy and sassy.
The story is one of charm. Owen Wilson is getting married and one night outside of a church he gets into a car that is filled with people he knows but never met. Some of these people includes the Fitzgeralds, Cole Porter, Hemingway, and countless others. It is never said if they are just parts of his imagination due to his love for Paris or this is really happening (I have my own opinion, but that is for later) and the film never gives an answer. But what I do know is that Allen never spends time on the idea if this is really happening or not. For the story, that is not important. What is important is his experience in Paris and how life changing it is.
As I said, Woody Allen is one of the most gifted writers in cinema and this film, being his 41, is probably going to be his best film of 2011 â" 2020. I just can't see him topping this film in terms of writing and crafting. What really makes this film work is, not only the mature way it is told, but how this is a film that can connect with anyone from the film geeks to the people that just see a film for entertainment. Allen is the type of writer that, ironically enough, would have been better if he lived in the 1960 â" 1970s before everything became mindless entertainment (even though he did start writing scripts at that time). Here he is able to craft a film that grabs your attention and refuse to let it go. His direction of how he tells this story is that of a dream: how he changes the setting from modern day to the 1920s plus how he has each of these wonderful historic figures comes to life and his ability to pull the acting out of the actors.
The other main power that this film has is Owen Wilson's performance. I am not his greatest fan, but here he is able to not only make the character lovable, but he is able to make him be able to connect with the audience and that little hidden desire we all have: leave our present and go into a time that we think is much better. But, now here is the thing: there are flaws with that wish. The present is unsatisfying for everyone because we are always living in a form of a renaissance and with this film, it proves that because Wilson wants to live in the 1920's but everyone he meets wants to live in a much different time frame. Also, as his character puts it, the present is unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying. Almost every character you meet has this theory pushed into their brains, but it is Wilson's performance that embodies it and the way he does so is simply fantastic.
I know that, from how this sounds, I make it sound like that this is the first time a director has done this. I know that is not true. But in, what I am calling, the French Academy Awards (where a good chunk of films were somehow related to France/ French culture), this is probably in the top three films along side films like The Artist and Hugo. As I am writing this review, I have yet to see Hugo, but I am finding it a tad bit hard to believe that any of those two films can be this wonderful on a personal level. Critically, I liked it. Personally, I want to live in this film.
1. Simplicity. The car as time machine? Cheap, sure, but why not? Easy to go with when it happens right at midnight, and a person from the past (Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, etc.) is already inside.
2. Humour. I just found a YouTube clip from 40 years in which Allen, in his stand-up routine, hyperbolically claims to have been in Paris at the same time as Gertrude Stein, the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway and Picasso. His irreverence hasn't fallen off in the slightest, as he at once honours and satirizes these figures, particularly Hemingway, who talks as eloquently and masculinely as he writes, which is of course completely impractical in conversation.
3. Romance. I don't know if anyone does a love triangle like Allen does - and this film is full of them. Though in Paris for their wedding, Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams) begin growing apart, and temptations abound around them, both immediate and dreamlike.
4. Scopophilia. Paris is beautiful. Woody's a beautiful cinematographer. Every shot is, well... beautiful...
5. Acting. This could end up being Wilson's defining role, as the bumbling writer who stumbles into his dreams, and McAdams, for her part, plays his incredibly mean, condescending fiancee to a tee. It's said, in fact, that while shooting, McAdams had to keep being told, "Be meaner," and the result is that the conservative, pretty-but-little-else character from Wedding Crashers returns as a much deeper character. Also of note: Adrien Brody's small role as Salvador Dali. It's a complete caricature, but it's hilarious.
6. Timelessness. To spoil a little, the film's message ends up being a sort of temporal grass-is-always-greener one: every era has an era before it on which they look longingly, wishing they had been alive then. It's another human truth that will never go away, and as he's done so many times already, Allen's put his finger right on it.
It's not just his best movie in years, or since Vicky Cristina Barcelona, even; it's one of the best he's ever made. Here's hoping his late-career renaissance will accompany him to Rome!
But.... And my, that's a very large but - while you are watching the film you are swept away by the lovely whimsy - the romance for a city and for a time and place - the romantic notion that sometimes something magical can happen; and that is not only by definition but by inference, ART. That this film is marginally about art and what art has to say (while being in and of itself a bit of art), is half the fun.
The other half of the fun is seeing who will turn up next. Not going to spoil the surprise of the film's gimmick, just mention that I enjoyed every minute of it. The film even gets high marks for remaining sweet and somewhat sentimental, even while presenting the argument (in a beautifully compelling way) that we all think that the grass is greener. Perhaps this resonates well with me, as I have all but abandoned popular music while still being mightily impressed by the creative output of the 60's and 70's of my youth.
The true beauty here is the film's pacing and style. Beautifully filmed with lot's of indirect yellow lighting, making the city of light seem wonderfully surreal - which is part and parcel of the script. Wonderful performances abound - especially in some of the lesser, near cameo roles (Adrian Brody comes to mind, playing the character billed only as Salvador). Of course at the film's center is Owen Wilson, who channels the humor and neurosis of Woody perfectly.
In conclusion, if you want to sit back and analize the film, you can certainly poke some holes in it - but I don't think that the film will allow you to do so while watching it - unless you don't believe in magic, you'll be swept along - so just sit back and let this film wash over you... to quote a lyric from MY favorite time - "turn off your mind, relax and float downstream".
Director: Woody Allen
Summary: In this charming romantic comedy, legendary director Woody Allen focuses his lens on an engaged young couple whose experiences traveling together in Paris make them begin to question the kind of life they want to live.
My Thoughts: "I guess I am one of the few who thought the film was visually beautiful but terribly boring. The strolls around paris was a great part of the film because of the beautiful surroundings. I did enjoy some of the character's, like Kathy Bates as Gert, Corey Stroll as Ernest and Adrien Brody as Salvador. Rachel and Michael play very annoying characters in this film. I didn't care for either of them. Midnight was the best part of the film. The rest wasn't needed. It has a great cast, no doubt. But I got bored with the film very quickly and couldn't wait for it to be over with. It was a miss for me."
It's the story of Gil, a time travelling Paris-o-phile author played by Owen Wilson, who for unexplained reasons, travels back to the 1920s and meets every famous artist by sheer luck (Hemmingway, the Fitzgeralds, Cole Porter, PIcasso, Dali, Gertrude Stein, and many others. Wilson is uhappily engaged to shallow harpy Inez, (Rachel McAdams, playing an uncharacteristic return to her mean girl, all grown up and 30 something) In the 20s, he falls in love with PIcasso's girlfriend (Marion Cotillard).
It's fun, full of terrific comic turns, looks wonderful (Paris as an HD picture postcard) has some very amusing little impersonations of iconic artists (look for the scene stealing Cory Stoll as Hemingway, and hammy Adrien Brody as Dali). Look for France's first lady Carla Bruni as the guide at the Rodin museum.
Midnight.... is ultimately about very little of substance except one interesting point: why are we all nostalgic for an idealized past that was never really ideal? That point, tackled with imagination and wit, is thin, and not enough to give this movie gravitas and purpose.
Woody won a best original screenplay Oscar for his efforts, but the writing is self-conciously chatty and the characters all seem to speak in Woody's voice, especially Owen Wilson, California surfer drawl and all. He's fun to watch, though a bit of a one trick pony, his iconic character works well in this role and has the audience's sympathies. Cotillard plays a more complex character, but the movie cheats her of a real pay off, stranding her in the belle epoque 1890's (her dream nostalgia period) with no real resolution.
Still for me, it was a delightful and tasty romp, and well worth a look. That said, even latter-day, 21st century Woody films like Vicky Christina Barcelona and Match Point are much more substantial and satisfying films (the less said about Scoop or Whatever Works the better), that I do wonder why this particular one hit pay dirt for Mr. Konigsberg. But., hey.. whatever works.
Owen Wilson is perfectly cast in his role as Gil, a writer who feels out of place in his time. Wilson generally stars as these naive, soft spoken, likeable characters, and this is best work since Bottle Rocket. Never failing to mention his opinion that the 1920s Golden Age is be the best time to be alive, Gil undergoes much criticism from his soon to be wife (played by Rachel McAdams), her family, and his peers. He's just written a book and is fighting to publish it apart from the Hollywood system that employs him to do rewrites to scripts he feels far above. One night he decides to stroll through Paris and is whisked away into a magic realist portal through time, right into the Golden Age where he dialogues face to face with F. Scott FItzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and Dalle.
Woody Allen makes a film every year, and many of these are more like reasons to keep him working. But every so often he makes a film that is so unique, so wonderful, and so perfect that it reminds audiences to just what remarkable talent he has. Midnight in Paris is that movie. I studied the Modernist movement in university and every character is portrayed exactly as they might have been.
The beautiful and lovely setting of Paris is magnified in multiple time periods, so that the evolution of the city itself becomes a parallel story. Within it, the characters that Gil meets in the past and the present serve to change his outlook on life. Through Gil, Woody Allen seems to be reflecting on the common belief that a person alive today may have been better off having been born in another time. That might be so, and Gil certainly feels right at home in 1920s Paris, but what shocks him is how many people living in this time don't agree. As Gil comes to terms with his purpose in life, and the choices he must make, we realize that we too should embrace the life we have, as there is no greater time to live than the present. What a remarkable film this is.