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March 12, 2012 / Siobhan Argent

Midnight in Paris – so gosh-darn…Woody

So, yes, it’s a public holiday long weekend and I should be studying. Instead, I’m reviewing Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Yay for procrastination!

Midnight in Paris makes me bitter for only one reason – Rachel McAdams is a vapid, annoying, whiny bitch in this movie. More often than not I have a lady-crush on Ms. McAdams, but not today, simply because she plays annoying so well here.

McAdams is Inez, the uninterested, bossy fiance of Gil Pender (Owen Wilson). The couple are spending a few days in Paris with Inez’s parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy, devouring the role of rich parents who think that US$20,000 chairs are a ‘steal’). Inez spends her days shopping and sightseeing with douchebag Paul (Michael Sheen) and shallow Carol (Nina Arianda). Paul craps on incessantly about things he likes to pretend he understands, while Inez spends her evenings complaining about the many ugly and boring sights of Paris. Because there are SO MANY horrible things to see, right? While these three wax nasty, Gil hangs around in the background like a bad smell. It all makes for some sweet character interplay as Paul does his best to suck both Carol and Inez into the giant gravitational pull of his ignorant arrogance.

What you gather from all of this is that, clearly, Gil’s a bit weird, since he actually wants to walk the streets of an ancient city. Gil dreams about the ‘golden age’ of Paris in the 1920s, while he slaves away on Hollywood scripts in the twenty-first century. Inez thinks he’s nuts for daydreaming about a city. At this point, I feel as though I should agree with her because she’s Rachel McAdams. You can’t argue with that. But then, director Woody Allen frames the city of love so beautifully that you can only agree with Gil; Inez is really the one that’s out of touch.

One night on his wanderings, Gil gets lost. He’s a writer; unless you’re Hemingway, a writer is always born with a bad sense of direction (I’m proud to say that I get lost in my own house). A suspiciously 1920s-looking car full of interesting people stops and someone inside offers Gil a lift. This is where the film does truly begin to drift away from reality, because Gil accepts the ride and is transported back to the era where fabulous writers live. In no particular order, he runs into Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Henri Matisse (Yves-Antoine Spoto), Cole Porter (Yves Heck), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Salvador Dali (Adrian Brody), T. S. Elliot (David Lowe), Pablo Picasso (Marcial di Fonzi Bo) and his muse Adriana (the luminescent Marion Cotillard), who litter the then-contemporary landscape like the most pleasant detritus you’ve ever seen.

This movie is crack for nostalgic literati, clearly. You begin to salivate when you see Gil shaking hands with the man who wrote the tragic ending to the Great American Dream (The Great Gatsby) and then begin getting a little sexually weird as Hemingway’s frightening intensity bares your soul as he stares you down through the camera lens. Gil hangs out with this 1920s crew, gets Stein, wonder editor, to read his floundering book, and returns to this modern life during the day. After spending days wandering furniture stores with Inez and his in-laws, Gil enjoys stimulating nights with Hemingway and Picasso, who begin to make Inez’s whining about romanticism seems ten times more unfeeling and soulless than ever.

Midnight in Paris is certainly a Woody Allen film; the characters seem real but also very off-the-cuff as they hurry to talk over the top of each other. While the whole concept of a magical 1920s car might seem ludicrous elsewhere, it is merely romantic in a city like Paris, where so many brilliant minds have gone before.

Allen doesn’t milk the sentiment of this film, particularly because there’s so darn much of it; we can see quite clearly that Gil is lost in the twenty-first century and seems to find his heart and soul in the 1920s. Adriana, the flighty handbag of several great men, immediately and understandably begins to steal Gil’s heart. While Owen Wilson pretty much plays Gil as he does every single other character he’s ever played (high-pitched when talking about his feelings; trailing off mid-sentence), he’s more or less well-cast. It takes a certain type of dreamer to make this character believable, and Wilson seems like a decent choice. And aside from the celebrity-clogged cast mentioned above, there’s one other cameo of note; French First Lady Carla Bruni, who makes sweet work of being a polite museum guide who tries her best not to smack Paul on the nose for the heinous crime of douchebaggery and know-it-allism.

So, basically, Midnight in Paris is sweet but not saccharine, chic but not arrogant (the perfect French blend), and clever without trying too hard. Bon appetit.


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