Midnight in Paris movie review
Not having an extensive Woody Allen vocabulary (I’ve seen Annie Hall, Bananas, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Sleepers and Bullets Over Broadway of the 45 or so films he’s directed), I still approached Midnight in Paris with certain expectations – both good and bad. Yet right away, its obvious that this movie wouldn’t fall into the trap that sent a movie like The Curse of the Jade Scorpion plummeting to its demise: getting the audience to believe that their could be a reasonable attraction between Helen Hunt and Woody Allen, for example. I don’t have any problem with Woody Allen as an actor, but not casting himself as the protagonist already lets you know that you’re in for a decent flick, and Midnight in Paris is better than that. I didn’t like it as much as the critics who gave it a 93% at Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s still a good movie.
The story primarily follows screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson), who is engaged to Inez (Rachel McAdams) as he hopes to complete his first novel and leave Hollywood behind while they accompany Inez’s parents in Paris, as Gil falls in love with the city. The story is fairly predictable, and the trailer doesn’t help: When Inez says, “You’re in love with an idea,” and Gil responds, “I’m in love with you,” it doesn’t take much foresight to realize that they aren’t going to end up together by the end of the flick. Inez and Gil don’t seem especially compatible even at the beginning of the movie – and they are especially incompatible for two adults that have agreed to marry each other of their own free will. They can’t even get together on a love of history: while Inez has a respect for art but lives in the now, Gil is so fascinated with the creators of works of art that he rejects the present as being capable of equivalent in any way.
The movie’s biggest flaws are it’s bad guy characters – namely, Inez and her parents. These characters were drawn a little to flatly for my taste. The audience isn’t supposed to like them, so they don’t seem to have a single redeeming quality amongst the three of them, but I think Mr. Allen went a bit too far in this direction . Still, they are passable and don’t ruin the movie by any stretch of the imagination. As the movie roles on, Inez chooses to go dancing with their friends while Gil walks back to the hotel, only to take a few wrong turns and…
Gil gets picked up by a mysterious classic looking car. He gets into said car with some trepidation, but not nearly enough; this scene does take place in 2010, after all – as adults, I’d like to think we’re all smart enough to refuse rides from strangers, no matter how nice (or in this case, drunk) they seem or how awesome their old school car is. As Gil has been harping about the past, its no surprise to the audience that the inhabitants of the car don’t seem to fit in with 2010 and before Gil knows it, they’re out of the car and in party… in the 1920s.
I don’t mean to make this sound trite, because it’s not. Sure, it’s predictable – I can just imagine the pitch meeting: “A 21 century man who rejects the present and is at odds with his fiance is magically whisked back to the 1920s!” In the past, GIl’s encounters with famous folks who frequented Paris such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (who calls everybody ‘old sport’ just like his famous Gatsby character does) and Ernest Hemingway (portrayed by the brilliant Corey Stoll) are charming. Marion Cotillard (you saw her in Inception) plays Adriana, who quickly (and predictably) becomes Gil’s new love interest, and the movie rolls on… Gil returns to 1920s Paris each night at midnight, blah blah blah, gets help with his book from Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), walks around, has drinks and so on.
I guess I should have known they were going further back in time when Adriana invites Gil to get into a horse and carriage, but… you know, it’s Paris! I thought it was just supposed to be romantic! If the clock chimed midnight… well, my bad. After a while, it becomes clear that they’re in 19th century Paris… or somewhere like that, I don’t know. Anyway, when Adriana declares how much she loves this time and wants to stay there forever, Gil explains to her how she must embrace the present… and yeah, there’s his arc.
The movie is charming and well performed, and the sets/locations are lovely, yet Midnight in Paris is predictable and not especially well written. Owen Wilson carries this movie on his back the way an ant might carry a Thanksgiving Day turkey. It’s fun, but its 94 minute running time feels much more like 120 minutes. I recommend this movie, but Woody Allen has made better movies – and so have a lot of other people.
My Rating: 4 out of 5