Film Review: Midnight in Paris
In 2011, Woody Allen released Midnight in Paris, a romantic comedy fantasy that premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Starring Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Owen Wilson, Tom Hiddleston, Corey Stoll and Alison Pill, the film grossed $151.1 million at the box office. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Art Direction as well as the Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Director, Best Actor – Motion Picture or Musical Comedy and won the award for Best Screenplay. Other awards won include Washington DC Area Film Critics Association for Best Original Screenplay, Writers Guild of America Awards for Original Screenplay, 11h Grande Premio Brasileiro de Cinema for Best Foreign Film and a Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media.
Gil, a successful Hollywood screenwriter dreams of writing novels and while he and his fiancée are visiting Paris, Gil falls in love with the city. One night, he goes out for a walk and discovers a square where every night at midnight, a magic car transports him to 1920's Paris.
Midnight in Paris is quite a good film, crafting an important message around a very well done plot. At the film’s base, the story is actually pretty interesting: a normal guy who hates what he does and is pretty miserable his present actually gets to go and see the glory days of the past that he longs for so much. It’s quite enjoyable to see him get to meet the people that he only knows about because of how they made their marks in history. And when his soon to be father-in-law decides to have him followed by a private investigator, it ends up providing a humorous moment where said detective finds himself in pre-revolution France. That and what happens when Gil and Adriana are transported to the 1890s shows that the square they are on seems to take them to what they believe to be the best time in history. Which really leads into how well the message of the film is crafted.
At its core, the film is trying to say that while it may seem that the best times have already been and that there is nothing to look forward to in the now. At the outset of the film, Gil finds his reality unsatisfying and worthless and desires to live in the 1920s, which he believes to be the Golden Age because of all the creative minds that lived during that generation. He believes that he doesn’t belong in his own world and that he would better fit in with the Lost Generation. But, when he finds out that Adriana wants to visit 1890s La Belle Epoque because she believes that’s the Golden Age and, in getting there, finding out that the people back then believed the Renaissance to be the Golden Age, he realizes that he was wrong in his thinking about the past. While there are quite a bit of unsatisfactory problems in the present, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t meaning and joy. They just have to be found and valued.
And tying everything together are some very well-done characters. The best of which seems to be Ernest Hemingway. He provides some interesting dialogue on how writers think, claiming himself to be the best and will fight anyone who says otherwise, while at the same time refusing to read Gil’s writing because if it’s better than his own, he’ll hate it that reason. And it’s so obvious that Hemingway is quite drunk, fitting in well with the historical person. Picasso’s scenes are also interesting and seem to show that for all the man did, he did have his moments where he was just blinded by infatuation.
However, that’s not to say the film doesn’t have its problems. For one, there’s a big double standard when it comes to the adultery committed by both Gil and Inez. The former cheating on the latter isn’t treated as bad, but the right thing to do, especially when Gil is trying to give Inez’ jewelry to Adriana, while the latter cheating on the former is seen as a betrayal. It doesn’t help that when Gil confronts Inez, she basically brushes it off.
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