This is a college assignment I did this week and probably the first time I started using big words like ‘pedantic.’
Midnight in Paris
Directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Marion Cotillard, Carla Bruni
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars
Gil, a Hollywood writer and aspiring novelist, is in Paris with his fiancée. He loves the romance of Paris but she cares more about following around her pedantic friends. From the beginning, it is evident that their relationship is a complete dead-end. After trying to find his way back to his hotel one night, Gil is pulled into an old-timey car by a bunch of party-goers and is swept away to Paris in 1920s, an era that he truly idolizes.
It would be more than fair to call ‘Midnight in Paris’ a love letter to the city of lights, but the portrait it paints is obviously America’s love affair with Paris, not Paris as she actually is. The places that Gil visits with his fiancée are in any hand guide book meant for tourists, and the people he meets on his escapades to the past are pre-dominantly American ex-pats- Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, Earnest Hemingway, Man Ray, Gertrude Stein. This isn’t a film that strives to shine a new light on Paris; it illuminates every romantic stereotype about the city there is.
The best parts of the movie are, of course the scenes that take place in 1920s. Gil goes to the coolest places, meets everyone worth knowing and gets writing advice from his idols.
Of all the characters he meets, Earnest Hemingway is a favourite. His character simply has the best lines besides, how often does one get to wine and dine with Hemingway?
As for the other characters like Dali, Stein and the Fitzgeralds, their personalities felt watered-down in order to be more attractive. This movie is purely fantasy, afterall and doesn’t make many claims towards historical or contemporary for that matter, accurately.
There are two connected thematic threads running through the movie. One is fear of death (it is a Woody Allen movie afterall). Hemingway says “ You’ll never be a great writer if you fear dying. Do you?” “Yeah, I do. I’d say it’s my greatest fear,” Gil replies. What is more evident is that his fear of failure is what was keeping him from taking chances in his writing and his life, but whatever you say, Earnest.
The second theme is one of romanticizing the past. It seems ironic that someone whose greatest fear is death would idolize only dead writers, but it’s also appropriate. Gil is afraid of failure- of living- than he is of death. The lives of artists in the past are comforting to him because from the perspective of the present, it seems as if they knew more or less what they were doing. But they were just as in the dark and uncertain as people watching the movie are.
‘Midnight in Paris’ is a great movie, it’s perfectly paced, hits all the right chords, it’s beautifully shot and Owen Wilson is ideally cast as the lead. It’s funny, romantic and whimsical. If you love Paris or literature or both, this movie is a must-watch.