Midnight in Paris is one of those ‘nice’ films that make one forget about the real world, forget that Paris is an often smelly, crowded and stressful capital city, forget that life is too complicated, and forget that time travel is not really possible (even when drunk). It makes you walk out of the cinema with a smile on your face, having been reminded what films are all about: making our daily fantasies a reality.
Featuring typical characteristics of a Woody Allen film, from the anxieties of the ‘Woody Allen character’ (Owen Wilson) to the re-evaluation of socially established recipes for love and happiness, Midnight in Paris feels like a strange hybrid of Allen’s previous work. It has silly moments, philosophical moments, romantic moments and surrealist moments. However, one doesn’t need to like the director to enjoy this film. Ultimately, it stands on its own.
The cinematography is simple yet beautiful throughout. The soundtrack is a refreshing selection of oldies, both French and American. The cast has great chemistry and the performances were alternatively original, funny and sensitive. Mentionning Corey Stoll in particular seems necessary, he stole the show with his performance as an eccentric Ernest Hemingway. Additionally, Adrien Brody was very surprising and funny as Salvador Dalí, but his appearance felt a bit too much like an attention seeking cameo and he reiterated a certain Rhinoceros joke once too many, making it lose its impact. Owen Wilson’s Gil (or ‘Woody Allen character’) is spot on,whether you like the actor or not, he is very endearing as an idealist riddled with anxieties and overwhelmed by the situation he finds himself in.
The artists of Paris’ Lost Generation are a great ensemble. Unfortunately, these personalities are not represented enough in films. Gertrude Stein, Picasso and the Fitzgeralds all had fascinating lives and inspired a great number of future artists. It is a shame that so few young spectators understood what generation and community the film was referring to. To quote Alan Rickman’s Metatron in Dogma: “You people. If there isn’t a movie about it, it’s not worth knowing, is it?”. So, good on Woody Allen for giving these characters such an original and intriguing portrayal that will hopefully motivate audiences to hop onto Wikipedia after watching the film.
The only major problem worth noting about Midnight in Paris, is how many times the theme of the story is shoved down the spectator’s throat. By the end of the film, you will have been told countless times that actually, it’s all very well to fantasize about the past, but it’s probably better to stop and enjoy the present sometimes – or as pretentious intellectual Paul (Michael Sheen) puts it “nostalgia is denial” – or as Gil realises “the present is a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying”. Get it? If not watch the movie, they’ll repeat it a few more times.
Despite this minor flaw, all in all the movie is a lovely escape, well written and well acted. It is an enjoyable experience, full of optimism that also happens to show Paris in a beautiful light.