While on a trip to Paris with his fiancé’s family, a nostalgic screenwriter finds himself mysteriously going back to the 1920s every day at midnight.
Watching To Rome With Love (review) reminded me that I still hadn’t gotten around to watching this movie. Contains some spoilers ahead!
For starters, this movie had me all nostalgic and longing for Paris again. I was listening to a bit of the conference they held at the Cannes film festival and Woody Allen was talking about how he wanted to make Paris beautiful, feature Paris. Well, he and his crew successfully did so, highlighting the main attractions of Paris but also interesting angles of the city featuring some sights but also the architecture and the Parisian way of life. The romanticism of the city is at an all time high here, which works hand-in-hand with the themes of the story. (As an aside, it was fun to also spot the places I’ve seen, haha)
In this movie the audience follows Gil, a Hollywood scriptwriter and budding writer and his adventures around Paris. I found myself sympathising with Gil on a number of levels: how he’s sort of stalling with finishing his novel, how he longs for a different era when things were different and where his favourite writers, poets, painters, etc. lived, how he views Paris in this different light compared to his fiance Inez, how he struggles with his own personal drawbacks and issues. He’s a well-rounded character (complete with a touch of the Woody Allen-esque neuroses) and it was interesting and amusing to watch his reactions as he comes face to face with the literary figures he’s adored–I know I’d certainly be left speechless and moon-eyed if I came across my favourite artists and writers!
The course of the story was just magical in the way that he encounters all of these characters–from Ernest Hemingway to Salvador Dalí to the lovely Adriana–and slowly starts to change as a person: he gradually loses that sense of uptightness, he becomes more confident, he starts looking forward to these meet-ups like he’s a part of that world. One of my favourite scenes had to be in the cafe with Gil, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, and Luis Buñuel and Gil is trying to explain his predicament; everyone sees a bit of art out of his conundrum whereas he doesn’t and Salvador Dalí keeps going on and on about the rhinos, lol. There’s the art, the history, the humour but there’s also that magic like when he’s with Adriana; I found that story to be rather cute.
The cast was just wonderful in this movie. Owen Wilson was wonderful as a lead here–I honestly can’t remember the last movie I’ve watched with him as a lead–with his timing. Given his delivery of his dialogue, he does a good Woody Allen impersonation (after having seen Allen’s acting in To Rome With Love). I love Rachel McAdams and Michael Sheen and I think they did a good job as their respective characters because omg I found them so infuriating. Like everyone has mentioned, he was pretty pedantic. As for her, at times I was wondering how it was that they ended up together because, as we see over the course of the movie and as he comes to realise, they’re just on totally different pages. Marion Cotillard was rather sweet here and I wish we saw more of Lea Seydoux. Tom Hiddleston, Alison Pill, Adrien Brody and Kathy Bates were also wonderful.
As an aside, I wonder, are all or most of Woody Allen’s movies like this? It’s hard to describe what it is exactly but there’s something about the dialogue or the main character that just makes it so…his movies. Which for the most part I don’t mind, every director has a trademark of theirs that distinguishes the film as theirs, but sometimes it’s just…a bit much, haha (usually the awkward social moments)
Overall, I enjoyed Midnight in Paris, it was entertaining (toe-curling socially awkward moments aside) and the story moved forward effortlessly. Definitely worth checking out if you’re into everything French/Parisian, the Belle Epoque or the 1920s scene and are into history/art/architecture/literature/music.