Despite the fact that I have been talking about Woody Allen’s new movie Midnight in Paris ever since the lineup at this year’s Cannes Film Festival was released, I didn’t get around to actually watching it until Fourth of July weekend. Matt and I made two (albeit weak) prior attempts to go, but didn’t quite follow through until we resolved to actually make it to the theater on our third time. It wasn’t completely our fault, as the film had a pathetic one-week run here in Auburn, so as often is the case with worthwhile movies, we had to go elsewhere to see it.
Midnight in Paris is a charming story about the endearing Gil (Owen Wilson) and his not-so-endearing fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams), who travel to Paris on vacation. The film opens with gorgeous shots of the city day and night. But the movie is not really about Gil and Inez as a couple. It’s mostly about Gil and his desire to be a novelist. Inez’s main role is to criticize and unnecessarily find fault. I instinctively disliked her from the beginning, even before her tendencies towards a tedious predictability fully surfaced. Not to mention her lack of understanding of Gil. His enthusiasm for writing and walking through Paris in the rain is addictive. It’s so easy to see his vision of a city as a form of art and to relate to his desire to escape reality and know a different time. For me, this time would be 1960s New York. For Gil, it’s 1920s Paris. And who can really fault him? Well, Inez, for starters. She doesn’t understand his passion and desire to write something great. Instead, she’s caught up in furniture shopping and in her friend Paul (Michael Sheen), who (mistakenly) seems to think he knows something about everything. So what does one do in such circumstances? Take nighttime strolls that somehow land you a few decades in the past. Enter Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel, to name a few memorable historical figures.
These midnight wanderings stay fascinating and do not get repetitive,whomever it is that Gil meets. They also bring up the question of which is preferable: the present or the past, which if you live in long enough, becomes your present. Everyone (besides Inez and her parents) seems to feel like another time is more enthralling than their own, but is it really? I have felt like that many times, so I completely understand. But don’t we feel like that most often when things aren’t going the way we want them to in our own era? It’s the times when we feel most restless and want to get away from all our problems that we think things would turn out differently if it was a different time. We romanticize whatever decade it is and tend to ignore the problems they had, kind of like Adriana from the 1920s (Marion Cotillard) does. It’s not like this theory can be fully tested, but Gil seems to figure some things out for himself in this film.
I thought Midnight in Paris was a fun, creative movie. It fully held my attention the entire time. (Of course I didn’t think someone was trying to steal my cell phone, so that might have helped.) It’s one of those things where maybe you secretly wish something like that could happen to you, but you know it’s fiction so you just live vicariously through the film. I’ve only seen Owen Wilson in comedies thus far, so it was a welcome change to see him as the adorable, tad bit absentminded and completely relatable Gil. As Matt pointed out though, it’s hard to see how he even ended up with someone like Inez, who is the last person you would imagine him with.
All in all, Midnight in Paris is a welcome escape from reality, as I think a film should be. My opinion is similar to that of Peter Travers. This is a perfect blend of good-natured humor and romanticism. Because as cliché as it may sound, who doesn’t just want someone to hold their hand and walk around with them in the rain?