Woody Allen's 'Midnight in Paris'

From What’s New Pussycat? to Annie Hall, Woody Allen has mesmerized the world for dozens of years. With his typically psychoanalytical comedies and dramas, he has spent his life’s work in film exploring recurring themes, such as romanticism, love, intellectualism and art. Through the richness of detail and extremely expressive characters, he shows interesting perspectives on the world and the beauty in life.

            Midnight in Paris is no exception to this.  This romantic comedy explores the life of Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), an American screenplay writer.  Disinterested in 21st century-modern times, he yearns for the simpler days of the past. Struggling to finish his first novel, Gil vacations in Paris with his wife Inez (Rachel McAdams), who really doesn’t seem to appreciate the landscape as much as he. 

One night, while drunk and stumbling along in the “City of Love,” Gil finds himself lost on a deserted street corner.  The time strikes midnight, and an old-fashioned car pull up with a group of people that look like they just dropped out of the sky from the 1920s.  Gil decides to go with them, and is instantly transported to the wondrous age of flappers, loose morals, jazz, parties, and booze.  This night he meets the likes of Cole Porter, the Fitzgeralds, and an unconventionally played (Kathy Bates), yet enlightening and humorous, Gertrude Stein, who agrees to edit his novel. 

Each night he leaves his wife to visit with his early 20th century pals. They spend their nights partying, exchanging ideas, holding discussions, and helping develop Gil’s novel, in a setting that can only be described as something out of The Great Gatsby.  Gil becomes acquainted to someone new each night, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Luis Bunuel, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, and Edgar Degas and many others.  Gil ends up meeting Picasso’s mistress and falling in love with her, despite their difference in eras.  (Yet, it is the 21st century, free/intelligent Parisian girl selling records on the street, who really catches Gil’s eye)

The film presents an ironic paradox.  Those in the 1920s, whom Gil visits, believe that the best age to live was the Renaissance, whereas he believes it is their era of the Roaring Twenties…just as every generation believes the ones before it to be more glamorous and exciting than their own, and so on and so on.  Displaying how complacent we can become in our own time period, the film shows this commonality which exists among us all, of a constant yearning for yesteryear.  Yet, in the end the overall message of the movie expresses a need for appreciation of the people and things around you in the present, and not settling until you’ve found complete happiness and love.

Richard Roeper gives this film an A, calling it “one of the best romantic comedies in recent years.”  Roger Ebert gives Midnight in Paris 3½ out of 4 stars, and is spot on with his review, in which he states:

“This is Woody Allen’s 41st film. He writes his films himself, and directs them with wit and grace. I consider him a treasure of the cinema. Some people take him for granted, although “Midnight in Paris” reportedly charmed even the jaded veterans of the Cannes press screenings. There is nothing to dislike about it. Either you connect with it or not; I’m wearying of movies that are for “everybody” — which means, nobody in particular. “Midnight in Paris” is for me, in particular, and that’s just fine with moi.”

To find out what happens, and to see if Midnight in Paris is por vous, in particular, …well, you just have to watch this whimsical, and beautifully written film for yourself.