Midnight in Paris (2011)

Midnight in Paris (2011) – Do you ever see stuff about like the free love revolution in the 1960s and think “damn, it would be great to be around then?” You’re not thinking about the details, like how everyone probably smelled and the “free love” in question was generally unprotected so herpes was probably everywhere. Or how about you take a look at all the conservatism who want to go back to “1950s morality” while conveniently forgetting things like segregation or McCarthyism. The past is never as glamorous as it seems. Still it has that allure that makes you think “if only I could have been there.” Woody Allen is a film-maker whose past seems to always overshadow his present. People either bring up his “older, funnier comedies” or dwell on such game-changers as Annie Hall or Manhattan (neither of which Allen himself especially cares for). Allen has been only looking forward though and on a European tour that has yielded some of his best work. This time around he took on the City of Lights and the Golden Age thinking I talked about earlier.

(The following paragraph contains spoilers, as the movie is over a year old and I think anyone checking out the movie at this point probably has an idea what the film is about. If you want to avoid these spoilers, skip down to old Facebook minireview in the last paragraph of this article. Short, short version: I found the film delightful and liked it a lot.)

Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is a “hack” screenwriter who is trying his hand at being a novelist. He has traveled to Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents (Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy). Gil wants to see the sights that Paris has to offer but Inez seems more inclined for the couple to spend time with her friend Paul (Michael Sheen), a pompous and pedantic pseudo-intellectual that Gil can’t stand. Gil decides to start going on late night walks, where surprising enough he is transported back to the 1920s and gets to rub elbows with great artists and notable 1920s figures like Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), Alice B. Tolkas (Thérèse Bourou-Rubinsztein), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Man Ray (Tom Cordier), Luis Buñuel (Adrien de Van), and Salvador Dalí (Adrien Brody). He also meets the enchanted 1920s flapper Adriana (Marion Cotillard). Drawn in by such literary and artist luminaries (who treat him as an peer no less) and enchanted by Adriana, Gil keepts traveling back to the 1920s every night leaving Inez and her parents to wonder just what he’s up to.

The film also features the always-lovely Léa Seydoux as a antiques dealer in 2010 and then-First Lady of France Carla Bruni as a tour guide who doesn’t care much for Paul. The characterizations of the writers and artists are fantastic. Since they’re meant to be more a fantastical occurrence than in-depth and accurate characterization they’re style of speaking and acting is drawn directly from their work. Stoll is brilliant as Hemmingway who speaks most in short, clipped sentences about things like war and machismo. Pill also stands out as Zelda Fitzgerald, played as charming though decidedly unbalanced. Brody is off-the-way weirdness as the surrealist Dalí. Wilson is sort of acting as the Woody Allen stand-in of the film. He plays everything with that familiar neuroticism but unlike other actors who have done this (like Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity), Wilson maintains his own familiar screen persona throughout. I found this film to be simply delightful. It’s one of Allen’s best and one of my favorites of 2011.

ORGINAL FACEBOOK MINIREVIEW (Summer 2011)

While his long-running film-career could best be characterized as “mixed” with hits and misses, every now and then Woody Allen really knocks it out of the park. This is totally one of those times. Owen Wilson plays Gil, a self-described “hack” screenwriter with ambitions of being a novelist. Gil’s on vacation in Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents (Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy). Also Inez’s pedantic friend Paul (Michael Sheen) is also in Paris and Inez seems to be more interested in spending time with him than Gil. So Gil starts walking the streets of Paris at night and discovers a side of the city he has always wanted to see. The film deals with romanticism and nostalgia in a way that I absolutely loved. Corey Stoll is pitch-perfect as a celebrated author who Gil meets and Marion Cotillard is beautiful and charming as a woman Gil finds himself quite taken with during his nocturnal adventures. I loved the hell out of this movie and would rank it as one of the best of 2011.

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