For me, Woody Allen has always been pretty hit or miss, but I find myself in the occasional mood where I want to watch one of his quirky movies.
For months now, Midnight in Paris has been on my Netflix list, just waiting for the day when I would feel like watching it. I knew there wasn’t much I wouldn’t like about it. Like our protagonist, I love the 1920’s era, believing that if I had my own Delorean and flux capacitor, this would be the era I would be traveling to, in hopes of hanging out with the literary giants of the century, enjoying the partying, music, and ideas.
The story is about a writer, played by Owen Wilson, who is in Paris with his fiancee (a pretty bitchy and unlikable Rachel McAdams, a definite departure for her, she does very well to be subtly detestable in the film) as they prepare for their upcoming wedding. A successful film script writer, Gil is trying to write a novel for the first time, and is getting there without getting there at the same time. One evening, at midnight, he is essentially transported back in time, to the Roaring 20’s, when Paris was inhabited by all of the great writers of the era: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein. The painters are there as well, such as Dali and Picasso.
Well, this is a dream come true for Gil, as he has never truly been satisfied in his own era, and was one of those people who believed that they were better off had they been born at a different time, whenever that may be. For Gil, it had always been the 20’s, and this was his chance to meet, and hang out with, all of his heroes.
The idea for the film seems pretty ridiculous, and I can’t say that it is too often that Woody Allen ventures into films about time travel, but it really isn’t about that. Midnight in Paris is a love story, and a story about being lost where you are. In some way, we all hope that we could have been born at a different time, for whatever reason. Maybe it is the 20’s for the art, or you wish you could have been a teenager in the 60’s and 70’s for the hippie movement, and the endless classic rock music that was all over the place. Perhaps you wanted to go back even further, the fin-de-siecle eras. Whatever it may be, many of us feel that another era would have suited us better.
The point of the film is that wherever you are, you probably always want to be somewhere else. People find their lives boring. And we always want to escape. While one era would look impressive from the outside, being pulled into it may be something completely different, and this is something that Gil is forced to deal with once he finds a romantic interest (Marion Cotillard) in the 20’s, who is as bored with her era as he is of his.
It is quite a clever way of doing things by Allen, and he doesn’t lose his quirkiness throughout, as he never does through the million movies he has made in his career so far.
Allen captures Paris very well, both in modern and 20’s times. He understands the beauty, and magic, of the city, able to look past the graffiti to see something incredible. That really is, in my opinion, what Paris is all about. The same goes for Gil. He quickly falls in love with the city and wants to live there, while McAdams barely tolerates it and wishes for her life back in the States.
A quirky story, and a chance to interact with legions of famous people from the 20’s is what makes this movie fun to watch. Seeing Hemingway and Picasso fight over a woman, seeing Fitzgerald dote over Zelda, Stein being the backbone of the group, Dali being eccentric as we would have expected him to be, it helps to bring us to that place that we will never truly get to see. Allen found good actors to play all of these parts, and they were done with a certain cheekiness that made all of the characters likable.
Midnight in Paris won an Oscar for the Best Screenplay (which shows how poorly I have followed the awards shows over the past few years) a couple of years ago. It is a highly regarded film, and I would agree with the reviews. It is fun, it has a great cast, and it does make us wonder about where we truly belong.
Is it in this era, or another? Or does it really matter anyway, since we do need to live in our current one.