Friday, November 25, 2011

Midnight in Paris a Lovely Sight

Midnight in Paris

It is a testament to Woody Allen’s career that, after making forty-one feature films, he can still make films that evoke glee. Even when it seems like his career is nearing an end he manages to pull out films such as Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. While the last ten years have been hit or miss, mostly miss, Allen seems reinvigorated with his latest film 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.

9 comments:

  1. Great Woody Allen flick that's funny, sweet, and well-acted by everybody involved. Glad Woody finally got back into his groove and hopefully he can keep it. Nice review CS.

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  2. Phips2:05 pm

    I usually do not like Woody Allen films at all..I havent seen many but the ones Ive seen did not interest me in the least. This film however was spectacular. I LOVE this film.

    The depiction of Paris both modern and old is amazing.

    Youre right, this is hands down Wilson's best performance in years.
    I also thought Marion Cotillard was absolutely fantastic and she stole the show in my opinion.

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  3. Fully lived up to my expectations, or even more... Loved the guy who played Hemingway, he made me understand the person Hemingway better, actually.

    After my first Woody Allen, Match Point - which I loved - this was a bit lighter and funnier, but nevertheless wonderful.

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  4. @Dan – The film actually reminded me how much I missed sitting down with a good Woody Allen film. Immediately had the urge to revisit many of the film in his canon of work.

    @Phips – I usually find that I only like Wilson in Wes Anderson films, but he really surprised me in this film. Cotillard was good as well, she was far better than Rachel McAdams. Granted McAdams role was not that meaty to begin with.

    @Mette – Those are two great films to start with, Woody Allen has a large amount of fantastic films that I would recommend that you see. I think you should move to the following films next: Hannah and her Sisters, Sleeper, Bullets over Broadway, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and of course both Annie Hall and Manhattan. Then you can proceed on to several of the other great films

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  5. Hi CS, I have a quick question about LAMB. If I move my blog to wordpress, how does that affect my membership? Do I have to be accepted again and wait three months, or no big deal?

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  6. @Matt S - As far as I know it should be no big deal. People update/move their sites all the time. If anything I would just send and email to The LAMB (largeassmovieblogs@gmail.com) and notify them that you have moved your site but still wish to retain your lamb membership. They will update their records accordingly.

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  7. It's crazy that after all of this time, he still puts out such high quality work. I mean "Midnight" was one of his best ever!

    I'm a bit biased though, since I'm pretty much a Woody Allen super fan.

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  8. @Kev D - I am a big Allen fan as well so I was elated to see that this film hit all the right notes.

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