Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, 2011)

So a couple of weeks ago, I started this post on Woody Allen’s 2011 romantic comedy, Midnight in Paris. I know it might be a blasphemous thing for me to say, but I liked Midnight in Paris so much better than the only other Woody Allen flick I had seen at the time, his highly-regarded masterpiece, Annie Hall. Now, I did appreciate the goofy yet intelligent cleverness of Annie Hall – like how Allen repeatedly has the characters speak in an aside to the audience, which other characters can also hear and join in – but I think the fact that I didn’t really want the relationship to succeed in the end and the fact that I simply didn’t like the character of Annie kind of prevented me from wholeheartedly liking the movie. Maybe I should have just enjoyed it for it’s originality and artistic qualities, but at least at the point where I’m at now, I need the plot to be interesting and the characters to be at least somewhat likeable for me to enjoy the movie.

But all that aside (this post, after all, is supposed to be about Midnight in Paris, not Annie Hall), Midnight in Paris is an excellent movie about a Hollywood screenwriter’s adventures in the city of lights. Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), a mediocre screenwriter who longs to have lived during the Jazz Age era of Paris, when he could have rubbed shoulders with the likes of his literary heroes, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, instead is vacationing in the still gorgeous but way too modernized present-day version of Paris with his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams), a woman who does not truly understand Gil, or, for that matter, know how to have a good time. While Inez is off doing touristy things like visiting a bunch of museums and Parisian landmarks under the guidance of a cloyingly pedantic professor, Gil longs to take long nighttime strolls along the streets of Paris, dine in tiny roadside cafes and bistros once frequented by Hemingway, and shop at roadside Parisian markets selling vintage records. One day, when Gil gets lost on one of his late night strolls through the city (while Inez is off dancing with the annoying know-it-all, played by Michael Sheen), he unexpectedly gets pulled into a Paris that no one alive today has ever experienced. Everyday at midnight, Gil gets the opportunity to live in his ideal world full of enchanting characters, dashing parties, and the true love of his life who respects him for who he really is, until he eventually realizes that while every era has its glitters, one must learn to be satisfied with his present.

I apologize if I gave too much of the secret away. The trailer, unlike trailers of late which completely divulge plot and ending in a neat little three minute package delivered before the movie even comes out making the movie pointless to watch, does a great job of hiding the major plot point to Midnight in Paris that makes the movie a Woody Allen movie – the originality, the fanciful qualities, the whimsy. (Though admittedly, this didn’t seem as “Woody Allen” as his other films – not that I’ve really watched many of his films. Though at the time I started this post, I had only seen Annie Hall, today I added Take the Money and Run to my repertoire. Midnight in Paris just isn’t different or off-kilter or fresh in the same way as the two earlier films of his I watched, but it is extremely creative and dreamy and well-executed just the same.)

But for those of you who, despite my recommendations, don’t want to watch the movie (my dad didn’t like the movie…especially since he expected more from Woody Allen), I’ll let the cat out of the bed. (Okay okay, I’m mostly giving away spoilers just for me, so that I can look back at this post and remember what Midnight in Paris was all about). So SPOILER ALERT! Midnight in Paris was so great because Woody Allen took a modern character back in time to interact with the literary and artistic legends of the Jazz Age. Unlike Night at the Museum, where historical characters weren’t in their natural element, and Back to the Future, where the people of the past were just regular people, Midnight in Paris allows viewers to see all these famous figures interacting with each other in their natural environment – Gil Pender is an intruder into their world who is whole-heartedly welcomed. I watched Gil’s adventures in 1920’s Paris with wide eyes…it is truly a fanciful and enchanting visit to the past, especially if you’re familiar with the 1920s figures who are referenced. I especially loved Adrien Brody’s wacky rhinoceros-obsessed Salvador Dali and Adrien de Van’s Surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel, who is perplexed by Gil’s idea for a film about guests who turn animalistic at a dinner party they are unable to leave, the subject of one of Bunuel’s most famous films, The Exterminating Angel (1962).


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