Film Review: Midnight In Paris (2011)

“That’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying.” -Gil

This isn’t the best Woody Allen film, but you can’t help but be completely charmed by the script. It’s a great re-imagining of what life would have been like for expatriates in the 1920s and Owen Wilson is the perfect actor to play the Woody Allen-esque character who’s just so friggin’ happy to be at the same party as Josephine Baker and Tom Eliot.

The story follows an American couple, Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams), who travel to Paris and are engaged to be married. Her parents aren’t opposed but they’re not too crazy about Gil who’s socially awkward and a bit of a dreamer. Even though he’s a successful Hollywood scriptwriter, he wants to branch out and write a Great American Novel about a guy who owns a nostalgia shop. Inez thinks this is stupid and he should just stick with what he’s good at. They don’t agree about a lot of things, like how Paris looks even more beautiful when it’s raining, but they both do like pita bread! And isn’t that what counts?

One night when his fiancee goes dancing with her ex-professor, Gil takes a lone stroll and when the clock strikes twelve, he finds himself in another era–Paris in the 1920s–and ends up bumping into the likes of Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), and a little known female figure known only as Adriana (Marion Cotillard) who is gorgeous and the complete opposite of Inez.

It’s a lot of fun to see so many literary bigwigs on the big screen. Having read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast (which isn’t really a book, more like just really amazing GOSSIP), it’s cool to see how the charming but self-destructive Zelda (Allison Pill) and her meeker other half’s doomed relationship are represented in the film.  And I loved, loved, loved Corey Stoll’s take on Ernest Hemingway. Because if he did happen to speak in the way he wrote it would sound exactly like this:

“Yes. It was a good book because it was an honest book, and that’s what war does to men. And there’s nothing fine and noble about dying in the mud unless you die gracefully. And then it’s not only noble but brave.”

Each and every caricature is delightful I think even if you don’t catch every single textual reference you will enjoy how Gil is thrown into this Golden Age which he sees as the IDEAL era. He also happens to fall in love with Adriana, Picasso’s fictional mistress and muse. And although it’s a lighthearted film (did anyone else get a Midsummer Night’s Dream vibe?) it also asks a very important question:

Is there such a thing as an ideal time period or are we merely romanticizing the past and letting our nostalgia get the better of us?

Oh, and it’s great to see Rachel McAdams channel Regina George even at the expense of poor ol’ Owen Wilson.

[Cover photo via]

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