You can say a lot of things about Woody Allen but one thing you can never do is write him off, whenever he makes a below par film or looks to be past his best he always produces something special, this is the case with Midnight in Paris.
The film was released during a difficult time in Allen’s career, his previous two films ‘Whatever Works’ and ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ both underwhelmed on a critical and commercial front, so Midnight in Paris was given a modest budget of only 17 million dollars possibly as a result of this failure.
Midnight in Paris was a huge success receiving critical acclaim and going on to become Woody Allen’s highest grossing film earning 151 million dollars at the box office worldwide, I believe this success is well deserved because the film is wonderful.
Owen Wilson stars as Gil Pender, Gil is an American screenwriter and aspiring novelist who is on holiday in Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams). The film begins with a beautiful shot of the Eiffel Tower and this transitions into a montage which shows off all the beauty Paris has to offer, Si tu vois ma mere by Sidney Bechet is playing in the background and it accompanies the scene perfectly.
Gil is attempting to write his first novel and he is close to completing the project but he is having difficulty finding inspiration to finish the story, Gil’s novel centres on the theme of nostalgia which play’s a big role in this film. Gil talks frequently about his love of Paris, he raves about how delightful the city is in the rain and he is captivated by thought of living in Paris in the 1920s and spending time with some of the greatest writers of this era such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
“There’s no city like this in the world, there never was. Can you picture how drop dead gorgeous this city is in the rain, imagine this town in the 20s, Paris in the 20s, in the rain, the artists and writers.”
Inez doesn’t agree in fact she never seems to agree with anything Gil says, for a couple who plan to marry and live with each other they don’t have a lot in common. Gil is a dreamer who has clearly earned a lot of his own success, Inez is completely self-obsessed and is clearly spoiled by her wealthy parents, she seems more concerned about her expensive jewellery instead of looking after her future husband.
I find Owen Wilson to be a likeable but very limited actor, I have enjoyed some of his minor roles in many of Wes Anderson’s films but I haven’t impressed by him in much else. His laid back and endearing personality works perfectly for the role of Gil. Wilson brings a childlike quality to the part, Gil is a starry eyed character who seems to be amazed by everything, he does have a tendency to mutter a bit to much but I found him to be a very likeable character.
He feels that his life has become a bit stale and he is longing for a fresh experience, I also think that Gil is a bit lonely and he seems desperate to meet someone he can actually connect with.
Gil and Inez attend a wine tasting event with her friend Paul (Michael Sheen) and his wife Carol (Nina Arianda), Gil ends up drinking a little too much and after the party finishes he decides to go for a walk to clear his head. He invites Inez along but she of course refuses instead choosing to go off with Paul, who Gil can’t stand.
Gil strolls through Paris casually as if he is savouring every little moment, he inevitably ends up getting lost so he sits down for a second to recount his steps, an old fashioned looking car pulls up next to Gil and a smartly dressed fellow opens one of the doors and asks him to jump in. Initially he refuses but Gil soon realises he doesn’t have much of an option, this is where the fantasy part of Midnight in Paris really starts to kick in.
Gil ends up at a extravagant party filled with icons from the 1920s era, we see songwriter Cole Porter and his wife Linda, Great Gatsby writer Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) accompanied by his wife Zelda. At first Gil is completely baffled and he seems convinced he has lost his mind. He ends leaving the party with the Fitzgerald’s and he follows them into a small café where he runs into Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll).
Gil sits down with Hemingway to discuss his novel.
Hemingway suggests that Gil should show his work to Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), he is enthralled by the idea and rushes back to his hotel to find his manuscript. Once he exits the café though everything has seemingly been transported back to the modern day. Gil rushes back to the hotel clearly invigorated by his magical experience.
I think every person has a fantasy in their mind they would love to escape to, for me I like to imagine myself as a student in an American high school in the 1980s who just happens to be friends with Ferris Bueller.
I think Gil is escaping to a fantasy world to avoid confronting the problems in his real life this includes in his relationship with Inez, the question marks he has over his career or maybe it is the conflicted feelings he has for someone else.
The idea of being magically transported back in time obviously makes no logical sense but it doesn’t seem to matter, the film clearly has a lot of fun with its fantastical concept so as a viewer you kinda get sucked into the fantasy.
Midnight in Paris is the perfect example of the film that is just wonderful, the film makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside and you get the feeling that everything is going to work out just fine. The film puts a smile on my face and I always feel much better after watching it, the film really is wonderful.
I also think Midnight in Paris nails its comedy, Woody Allen’s dry sense of humour shines through on the big screen and the film is full of moments that are hilarious. I think it is one of Woody Allen’s funnier movies and he of course won the Academy Award for best original screenplay.
Gil finds Inez and he tells her every detail about his unusual experience the previous night, she clearly doesn’t believe him and thinks he has gone crazy. Gil convinces Inez to follow him to the same exact spot as the previous night to prove he isn’t crazy. She plays along with it for a while but she eventually leaves him, as soon as Inez leaves the exact same old fashioned car pulls up and invites Gil inside.
This time Gil has come prepared bringing his manuscript along with him, he meets up with Hemingway and they make their way to Gertrude Stein’s apartment. In the apartment Gil meets another famous face from the 1920s in Pablo Picasso but he isn’t interested much in Picasso instead Gil is struck by his lover Adriana (Marion Cotillard). The two hit it off immediately and a potential romance seems like it could blossom.
The setting always plays a big role in a Woody Allen film, this is the case for New York city in both Manhattan and Annie Hall and it is also the case for Paris in this film, Midnight in Paris immerses in its setting and it captures the brilliance of this incredible city. I also love the film’s music, the soundtrack is full of old fashioned tunes from the likes of Conal Fowkes and Josephine Baker and it is a treat for the earbuds, the music also helps to enhance the nostalgic feel in the film.
A lot happens for Gil in a very short time, he receives positive feedback from Stein on his manuscript and is encouraged by her to make a few adjustments which he soon does, his relationship with Adriana progresses a lot further than he expected and he also meets an antique dealer named Gabrielle (Lea Seadoux) who shares his love for the 1920s.
Inez becomes suspicious of Gil and her parents end up hiring a private investigator who follows him around relentlessly, Gil also discovers some secrets about Inez which makes him question their relationship, but like I said everything works out just fine in the end so don’t worry.
Midnight in Paris is not Woody Allen’s best film but it is certainly up there with some of his greatest work, to me the film is endlessly rewatchable and it marked a return to form for Allen. Midnight in Paris is one of personal favourites from the director and the film shines a lot brighter than much of his recent work, the film as I said is a joy to watch and I have no issues recommending Midnight in Paris.
l would like to credit John Maverick and Shaking Antenna Films for the videos provided in this blog, the relevant links are below.