Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Midnight In Paris

This week my local theatre showed Woody Allen’s newest creation, Midnight In Paris. The film stars Owen Wilson as a washed up hollywood screenwriter who spends his time fantasizing about the past, in particular Paris during the 1920’s. He and his insufferable bride-to-be, Inez (Rachel McAdams), are in Paris on vacation which provides plenty of opportunity for Gil to reminisce on the golden past as well as ample time for Inez to berate him for it as he tries to write a novel instead of another hollywood-worthy screenplay. Gil spends his vacation tagging along, whether it be with his overtly right-wing conservative in-laws buying obscenely priced furniture for their future home, or Inez and her friends Carol and Paul as they tour Paris. One night Gil escapes his fiancée while she goes off dancing with Paul and Carol, and finds himself, fairly intoxicated, on the steps of an old church. When the bells strike midnight an old car drives up and takes Gil away down the street but when he exits the car he discovers that he has been taken to the place he always dreamed of and finds himself in the 1920’s. Gil returns several nights in a row and Inez and her parents become suspicious. However, the phrase “I was out dancing with Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald” does not bode well with his fiancée. His several trips back to this era introduce many well known characters that any writer today could only dream of meeting. If you ever wonder what Woody Allen dreams of at night, this film is probably an accurate representation. 
The theme that is evident in Midnight in Paris is the idea of nostalgia, especially for a time or place we’ve never been to before. Woody Allen explores the idea that no matter what time you believe was the golden age, those who lived during that time will long for a different past themselves. When Gil begins to fall for Adriana, a former mistress of Pablo Picasso, he is really just falling in love with the idea of Paris in the 1920’s. He soon discovers that Adriana believes that the 1890’s were the golden age. By incorporating historic figures into the story it engages the audience and further proves the point that there is no such thing as a golden age and that it is purely self-constructed. From Salvador Dali to Earnest Hemingway, Gil’s midnight trips to the twenties are like Night at the Museum for aspiring authors. 
Woody Allen is a story teller, whether it be directing, writing, or acting, and this film is no exception to his style. The story is the heart of the film and by bringing the lead character into the roaring twenties the audience follows. It is believable because the concept of nostalgia is not foreign. Though the past is concrete in the sense of what happened, happened, it is malleable in that we can choose to portray it however we wish. Though Midnight in Paris is classified as a romantic comedy, this is far from a simple chick-flick, a well-written reflection on our obsession with the past.

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