May 3, 2012

Film Review: Midnight In Paris

Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is a Hollywood script writer vacationing in Paris with his über rich fiance and future-in-laws. While his wife and family, (Rachel McAdams, Kurt Fuller, and Mimi Kennedy) are sight-seeing and catching up with old family friends, Paul and Carol Bates (Michael Sheen and Nina Arianda), Gil is desperately falling in love with Paris while he looks for inspiration for the breakthrough novel that's going to be his ticket out of script writing. Maybe out of coincidence, or maybe just because needed it, at the stroke of midnight like clockwork Gil is picked up in a time-traveling buggy straight from the 20's, where he's whisked away to and meets famous writers, painters and musicians of the time. Then, come sunrise, it all disappears and he's back in the present.

Woody Allen's brilliant directing and writing really blows me away. Owen Wilson was by far the best choice for the role of Gil Pender without question. Naive, sweet, charming, and a little lost and haunted. I enjoyed the appearances of all the famous folk from the 20's as well, particularly because they were portrayed as so young and three dimensional. Their youth stood out because whenever I think of these great figures in history I think of them in their later, greyer, more seasoned years rather than young and viral. Their three dimensionality stood out because so many writers would have thrown the characters into the story to serve their purpose and lived off their novelty, then disappeared. Instead, I learned things about each of the famous figures and actually cared about them as characters.

Two negative things stuck out to me about this film. Hated all of the characters in the present day. Gil's fiance, the in-laws, and the family-friends, even the nice background characters like record store clerks were one dimensional archetypes that were really only there to serve as plot devices rather than be characters. For someone who got as much screen time as Inez (Rachel McAdams) I'd hardly call her a main character, because she's bland, unrelatable, and unlikable. The other thing that stood out negatively is that the time traveling method was never explained. I don't grate about that nearly as much as the present day characters though, because they at least make some attempt to explain the magic of time travel in a conversation with some surrealists.

My Highlights:
Anything involving Salvador Dalí (Adrien Brody), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), or Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates). These three stole the movie and are insanely quotable. I can't remember any of the beautiful nuggets of wisdom they said off the top of my head, but thank goodness for the internet. Words to live by. Both the things they said, and the phrase "thank goodness for the internet."

Overall Rating:
While hosting so many extraordinary characters, wonderful storytelling, and a beautiful message, some of the characters I really should care for and see as three-dimensional, I don't. And these are characters that get a lot of screen time. Also hated the first fifteen minutes or so of the film, because it primarily features all the worst characters doing 99% of the talking. So the film has a lot, and I mean a lot of upsides, but some annoying things drag the film down from a terrific score. Overall, not something I'd watch in repeated viewings but so mind-opening and impressive in an artistic sense that left me with solid closure and happiness.

4.5 / 5

When You Should See It:
If you have the endurance to sit through a really boring and eye-gouging first ten or fifteen minutes, then you should definitely see this. It still won't be for everyone, as it's not a mindless popcorn flick. It's not necessarily a confusing film that if you space out for five minutes you'll miss anything plot-wise, but to one degree or another I think everyone will enjoy the film. It'll open your mind and stuff. Maybe a good date movie, in a 500 Days of Summer kind of way.

image from Amazon

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