Monday, January 30, 2012

Movie – Midnight in Paris (2011)

Midnight in Paris is the latest movie from writer/director Woody Allen.  It is a wonderful film that celebrates the magic of Paris.  It received four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.  The best chance it has for winning an Oscar is in the Best Original Screenplay category, and this leaves me with a bit of a quandary.  I will explain.

I want to explain why I liked this film so much, but that will get into the events that are central to the movie’s charm.  These events have not been overtly shown in the film’s trailers, nor are they mentioned on the packaging for the DVD/BD.  This is actually a good thing for the people who go to see the movie.  Nowadays I can sometimes figure out the twist in films just from the trailer (i.e. Fight Club, Shutter Island).  Even ones that don’t show that much, still end up showing scenes which let you know people are going to be okay (i.e. Castaway).  Midnight in Paris does not do this, and that made the film a better experience for me.  With that in mind, I will tell you what I can about the movie without spoiling this experience for you.

Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, The Royal Tenenbaums) plays Gil, the Woody Allen character in the movie.  Rachel McAdams (Wedding Crashers, Mean Girls) plays his fiancée Inez.  They are in Paris with Inez’s parents.  Her father is there for business and his wife, Gil, and Inez tagged along to visit the city.  Almost immediately we see signs that Gil and Inez may not be the best match for each other and that Gil definitely does not fit in with her parents.

Gil is a Hollywood screenwriter and he makes a very good living.  He has dreams of quitting that and writing a great novel, though – one worthy of the heroes he admires.  His plot is about a man who owns a nostalgia shop specializing in the forgotten treasures of yesteryear.  Inez, while sort of supporting him in this endeavor, feels that it’s a silly concept for a book.  She figures he will fail at this and go back to screenwriting.  Inez’s parents are not exactly thrilled that their future son-in-law is giving up a lucrative career to chase a dream.

Gil is very much like the lead character in his book.  He loves the history of Paris.  While there Gil wants to do all the romantic things he dreamed of like walking the streets of Paris in the rain, seeing all the artists’ hangouts from the 1920’s Jazz Age, etc.  Inez is a very practical person.  She can’t understand why someone would want to walk around Paris getting soaked.  Neither can her parents.

Gil and Inez just happen to run into Paul, an old lover of Inez’s played by Michael Sheen (The Queen, Frost/Nixon).  He and his wife insist that Gil and Inez join them for visits to all the big touristy things that Gil dislikes.  Combine this with the fact that he knows Inez had a thing for Paul and Gil’s not very comfortable.  Adding to his displeasure is that Paul is a know it all who delights in showing off.  A visit to Versailles presents Gil with a chance to correct Paul on something, with the help of a tour guide (French First Lady Carla Bruni).  It is reminiscent of the scene in the opening of Annie Hall.

Gil finally has enough of Paul and the next time Inez wants to join them he begs off and walks the streets of Paris.  He finds himself lost and stops on some steps to rest.  A clock starts to chime Midnight and a car pulls up.  The people inside the car invite Gil to join them.  He does, and this starts his magical exploration of Paris.  Where he goes, what he does, and who he meets are what make the film so great, but it is also what I have decided not to spoil for people.

I will say that my favorite scene in the movie is the arrival of a horse and carriage.  People who have seen the film will know what I am referring to.

Woody Allen has no trouble getting familiar faces to take smaller roles in his films.  I already mentioned Michael Sheen and Carla Bruni.  Also in the movie are Tom Hiddleston (Thor, Avengers), Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Kathy Bates (Dolores Claiborne), Marion Cotillard (Inception), and Adrian Brody (The Pianist).

My only negative with the film is that Inez, her parents, and her friends are kind of annoying.  Of course, they are not supposed to be likeable, so Allen achieved his goal.  I wish the movie had concentrated a little more on Gil’s adventures and a little less on Inez and her family, or that the film was longer than an hour and a half so that more time could have been spent with Gil’s experiences.  This is a minor complaint, though.

If you are wondering if this film is a comedy or a drama, I would say it is a light drama with some comedic elements.  If you only like physical comedy or heavy drama then this is not the movie for you.  On the other hand, if you have a love of writing, painting, or music then this is definitely the movie for you.  It celebrates all of those things, especially the works that were created in Paris.  I really enjoyed this film.  I highly recommend it.

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

           DVD                      Blu-ray                 Instant Video


  1. Man, I wish I could hang out with Salvador Dali so he can talk about rhinos and talk films with Bunuel. I love this movie. Woody just won me over big time. Good review Chip.

  2. I was so looking forward to see this one and now I even want to see it even more! Excellent review Chip, we clearly can feel your enthusiasm towards the film!

  3. @Dan O. - I completely agree. I loved Gil's suggestion for a movie idea. Thanks.

    @Michael Parent - I think you will enjoy this film, too. I'm glad I was able to get across how much I liked it. Thanks.