Midnight in Paris
Blending romantic comedy with elements of fantasy, the film involves a screenwriter, Gil (Owen Wilson), who travels to Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents for a vacation. Struggling to finish his first novel, Gil does not receive any emotional support from Inez or her parents. They feel Gil should forget about his novel and stick to writing successful films. Falling in love with the city, and seeking inspiration, Gil decides to take a stroll around Paris at midnight. Little does Gil know that he is about to be magically transported to Paris in the 1920s. Considered the “Golden Age” by Gil, he encounters numerous literary, artistic, and philosophical icons including Zelda (Alison Pill) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody) and Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll). As if the journey was not exciting enough, Gil meets Adriana (Marion Cotillard) who may just be his perfect match.
Midnight in Paris is a wonderfully astute film that explores the romanticism with nostalgia. For Gil the past is viewed as the pinnacle of artistic inspiration. He is mesmerized by the intellectual conversation and the limitless creativity that the artists exude. This is in stark contrast to the stifling life that he is building with Inez. However, Allen is clearly using Gil to point out how we often look longingly towards the past instead accepting what the present has to offer. This is emphasized when Adriana, who is from the 1920s, views the Belle Époque as the true Golden Age.
Another element that makes the film work so well is the script. Allen’s dialogue in this film is on par with some of his great works of the 70s and 80s. Part of the fun in watching Midnight in Paris is seeing which famous icon will pop up next? Whether it is Josephine Baker or Henri Matisse it never gets tiring when a new face appears. Allen seamlessly integrates these characters into the story without missing a comedic beat.
For their part, the cast does a great job of bringing all of Allen’s historical characters to life. Corey Stoll in particular is fantastic as Hemingway. He brings a roguish charm to the role that makes it obvious why a woman would fall for him, and guys like Gil wish they could be him. Whether he is talking about why writers should never read other writers’ works, or hitting on Adriana, Stoll is a treat to watch. It should also be noted that Owen Wilson delivers his best performance in years as Gil. Unlike other actors who have worked with Allen, Wilson never feels like he is doing a direct parody of Allen. Sure the Woody Allen influence is there, but Wilson’s usual style of acting is more present in this film. While it can be annoying in other films, it plays beautifully here.
As with all Woody Allen films, the director does not hesitate to take comedic jabs at himself throughout the film. In one scene Gil sheepishly states “wonderful but forgettable, sounds like like a film I’ve seen. In fact, I may have wrote it”. Fortunately, Allen does not have to worry about that problem with this film. Midnight in Paris is an enjoyable film that reminds us that we should not be nostalgic for Woody Allen works of the past because he still has the ability to turn out gems in the present.