If you’re a screenwriter, you’re almost required to have opinions about Woody Allen. As a woman, I am constantly reminded that he married his step-daughter (however they do have one of the longest running marriages in Hollywood) and can’t help but question his motives when he makes multiple films with Scarlett Johansen. Woody Allen makes films for himself, first and foremost. He is definitely one of the most self-involved filmmaker of all-time, but when his work speaks to you, it is even more powerful because it is so personal. While I am somewhat predisposed to enjoy Allen’s work due to my love of dialogue, I found Midnight in Paris to be one of his more charming films.
Writer Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) travels to Paris with his fiancé, Inez (Rachel McAdams) while struggling to complete his novel. Gil is very romantic about Paris, particularly the Paris of the 1920s, much to ihs fiancé’s annoyance. As Gil wanders the city at midnight, he suddenly finds himself in the Paris of the 1920s, surrounded by artists like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway. He also falls in love with Adriana (Marion Cotillard) who is sort of a 1920s painter groupie and argues that the true Golden Age of Paris was the late 19th century – la Belle Epoque.
If you know anything about art and literature of the 1920s, the film becomes a lot of fun as you try to guess who’s who. It really brought out my inner snob as I found myself saying out loud, “Of course that’s Man Ray.” I think this film really touches on the true fact that we all think we were born in the wrong time. The problem with nostalgia is that we always remember the good or at least interesting bits. Every era has elements that are forgettable or downright awful.
I think Owen Wilson is a really great fit for Allen’s style. There’s an obnoxiousness to Allen’s leads that Wilson’s laidback likeability balances out. Gil is self-involved, pretentious, and narcissistic, and worst of all ,he thinks it’s everyone else that’s guilty of these sins, but Wilson’s floppy hair and childlike approach to the magic that surrounds him redeems him. I hope Allen and Wilson continue to work together as it is clear Allen has struggled to find someone to take his place in his own films as he’s aged. However, I found the choice to have Gil’s fiancé admit to cheating while in Paris to be an obvious attempt to excuse Gil’s less than gentlemanly behavior. It’s ok that he has fallen head over heels for the enchanting Adriana, because McAdams was a cheating whore!
While I doubt Allen will ever make a film that comes close to Annie Hall, he can still make films that say something the human experience. In the film, Inez’ parents rave about a wonderful film they saw just the night before, but they can’t remember the title. Wonderful but forgettable might be a harsh description of Midnight in Paris, perhaps an unremarkable delight. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking up airline prices for a trip to Paris.