Midnight In Paris - Reviewalysis
I admit that I am not as familiar with Woody Allen films as I should be, until recently I had not even seen Annie Hall so I did not watch Midnight in Paris with any expectations of what a Woody Allen film would be like. Although anyone who has seen Woody Allen talking can see his voice screaming out at you in the main character of Gil, played by Owen Wilson. Gil is obviously a part of Woody Allen, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Midnight in Paris is a film about nostalgia and the 'grass is always greener on the other side' feeling that we all experience at some point in our lives (if not continuously) It also highlights, or makes a commentary upon rather, the fact that many of us do not trust ourselves enough to truly be who we are, and we end up 'settling' rather than gong with our dreams.
Owen Wilson plays Gil, a writer from Pasadena who grew up in love with the greats of literature, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Mark Twain to name a few. He believes that the 1920's was a golden era for so many incredibly talented people to have come out of it. He feels that he has sold his dreams and become a 'hack', writing screenplays for Hollywood that are no good, even though we are told that his work is in high demand and that he is very successful. Despite this he does not trust his abilities. Paris is his dream city and the 20's his dream era and Woody Allen brilliantly blends the two together and without any special effects or fanfare takes us back in time to meet the greats of creativity from the 20's. From Hemingway to Picasso Gil meets legendary historical figures (man of them his personal heroes) and learns to trust himself more and eventually to stop living in another world and be true to himself in the present.
A lot of Gil's character is revealed in the interplay between himself and his fiancee Inez (played perfectly by Rachel McAdams) and her slightly obnoxious, opinionated and very wealthy parents. You really dislike Rachel McAdams in this film, as Inez she steps all over Gil, essentially laughing at his dreams and really holding him back from who he really is. The audience is shown quite clearly that the two have nothing in common, but, Owen Wilson's character Gil seems blind to it, almost like he thinks she is the best he is likely to get, so he may as well go along with it, she is beautiful and she, for some reason he doesn't understand, likes him and wants to marry him. Really however she is selfish, she wants to be 'kept' in the way that she is accustomed and is attracted to his salary and the fact that he is a little pliable, very naive and easily led. All parts of his character that make him endearing to the audience and a very likeable character .
I think it is probably some of Owen Wilson's best work, the role really suits him because he has a very laidback energy naturally, so to be a lost writer who lives inside his mind more often than not is perfect for him.I took great delight in his reaction to going back in time and meeting his heroes, he is stunned for a minute but quickly becomes so engaged in the reality of meeting them that he accepts it without question, his greatest dreams have just come true why would you fight that?
The rest of the cast were also excellent, perfectly personifying their various historical figures as they are described by history. Corey Stoll (an oft overlooked but brilliant actor) who played Ernest Hemingway stood out in particular for me with his intensity and way of speaking. He managed to pull of the passionate, depressive, alcoholic writer who has been through war and loves to hunt perfectly with none of the stereotypical excessive abusive traits of alcoholics that many actors fall into, he played Hemingway as a man with a tight control and great depth of feeling, holding fast against a world he wanted to fight. He created a believable and infinity interesting character in Hemingway and I would have liked to have seen more of him in the film. It was nice to see Adrian Brody appear as Salvador Dali as well. Brody has sadly not had a good role for a while now, I like him as an actor and whilst his part as Dali was brief and slightly strange (which Dali most certainly was) he played it well. There is some buzz going around right now about his new film 'Detachment' where he is reputed to shine.
Ultimatley in this story Inez (Rachel McAdams) ends up pushing Gil away, her demanding and insensitive character does not understand Paris and shows that she does not love her fiance by having an affair with an old college buddy turned ego fueled know it all professor (played capably by the wonderful Michael Sheen, who does a very good American dialect it turns out and creates some great moments in the film). Gil is completely unaware of his wife's affair and has become completely immersed in the secret world of Paris in the 20's that he finds on the stroke of midnight every night. I felt that subconsciously Gil knew what was going on, and that there was no love between him and his future wife as he starts to fall for a beautiful french lady called Adriana (played by Marion Cotillard who as always played the role perfectly), his character is too nice to do that without any guilt if he thought there was love in his live that he was betraying. In an interesting twist the two, Gil and Adriana, actually go back in time again, this time to the 1890's which is Adriana's golden era. She experiences what Gil experienced by going to the 1920's but it affects her so strongly that she decides to stay and live out her life in the 1890's. Losing her drives Gil to face reality, that he has nothing in common with his future wife Inez and he breaks it off with her. A move which no one is upset about, thus proving there was no love in their relationship. Gil is thus freed to make the decision to stay in Paris and write his novel, leave the movie business behind and become a 'real' writer. His novel is about a man working in a nostalgia shop, a place where old things are sold so it is not surprising when he bumps into a Parisian women who he met at a nostalgia shop she works at earlier in the film. They had an obvious connection then and as they meet it begins to rain, but unlike Gil's former fiance she loves to walk in the rain.
Midnight in Paris is a lovely film, the pace is sedate but not too slow, the storyline full and told with love. Many of the jokes went over my head and many of the characters were only vaguely remembered from literature and history classes. This did not lessen my enjoyment of the film however because Owen Wilson's character understood the jokes and got such a kick out of hearing them from their original owners that it did not matter whether you understood them or not, he understood them for you. Definitly a film for writers to watch, but you don't have to be a writer to enjoy this film. Woody Allen brings Paris to life as a romantic character in its own right that will charm you and make you smile as the sweet young writer finds his dreams coming true. This story is really a kind of modern fairy tale, a very good one at that.