Midnight in Paris (2011)
|June 29, 2012||Posted by Sep Gohardani under entertainment, reviews|
Film Information: Released June 10th 2011; Certificate 12A
Cast: Owen Wilson; Rachel McAdams; Marion Cotillard; Tom Hiddlestone; Léa Seydoux; Corey Stoll; Alison Pill; Carla Bruni; Michael Sheen; Kathy Bates; Kurt Fuller; Mimi Kennedy
Director: Woody Allen
Screenwriter: Woody Allen
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Gil Pender (Wilson) is a very successful but unsatisfied Hollywood screenwriter who showcases the lavish American lifestyle with his rich fiancée Inez (McAdams). When he goes on holiday to Paris with her rich and conservative parents (Fuller and Kennedy) he is overcome with a desire to remain there, revelling in the sense of awe he feels at the artistic past of the French capital. This, however, is not an opinion held by his beloved, who labels the city “corny” and wishes to leave when the holiday is over. Gil grows gradually more irked with events, especially after a friend of Inez’s named Paul (Sheen) shows up and flouts his so-called intellectual knowledge about the city’s art readily, offering to help Gil with the novel he’s writing, which Gil is using as an attempt to break away from the banality of Hollywood. Gil finds Paul insufferable but Inez finds him admirable and attractive, annoying Gil all the more. One night while at a wine event with Inez and Paul, Gil reaches a level of intoxication that leads him to believe he can walk back to the hotel alone, and gets completely lost. When the clock strikes midnight, he finds himself transported, with the aid of a car, to the so-called “Golden Age” of Paris: the 1920s. Encounters with Ernest Hemingway (Stoll), Gertrude Stein (Bates) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Hiddleston) are just around the corner, but can Gil come to terms with this amazing revelation, and will his new-found attraction to the mysterious Adriana (Cotillard) cause even more trouble in his relationship with Inez?
While the romcom is a genre often regarded with scorn by many film enthusiasts, including myself, Woody Allen (Vicky Cristina Barcelona; Match Point; Annie Hall) may be one of the only worthwhile auteurs in the area. Purveying a unique approach to the art, Allen has been consistently successful since the 1970s in the directorial department and has in the process become one of the most well-known names in the business. Indeed, he has picked up four Oscars and 23 nominations over his wide and expansive career, with Midnight In Paris picking up four of those nominations and one of those awards, for best screenplay, in this year’s ceremony. Did the film deserve that amount of praise? About as much as M. Night Shyamalan deserves putting down as far as his beleaguered film career is concerned.
Owen Wilson (Starsky & Hutch; You, Me and Dupree) has always had bags of comic charm that has never before quite been utilised to full effect. His role as dissatisfied Hollywood hired hand turned novel enthusiast Gil Pender allows him to tap in to this potential to the full. Wilson is consistently humorous but puts aside a lot of the childish silliness that blights his characters in his other films, resulting in something of growing maturity. We see Paris through Pender after all, and Wilson makes sure this journey is engaging and enjoyable rather than jarring and ridiculous like many of his more mundane excursions, most of which seem to feature Ben Stiller. Coincidence? I think not. Other notable performances come from Rachel McAdams (Morning Glory; Sherlock Holmes) who exuded the upper-class sentiment of Inez as someone who puts her image over everything else, and contrasted very well with Marion Cotillard (Inception; Public Enemies) and her character, who is charming and eloquent without the veneer of elitism that Inez has, despite her attempts to disguise it as intellectualism. Cotillard continues to impress, but her selection of roles also continues to feel very rigid, so it would be nice to see her explore a new avenue with her next few productions.
Allen has always been self-deprecating when it comes to his work, which on many occasions seems to have no basis, Midnight in Paris being another of those. His screenplay is innovative and maintains a consistently humorous tone, blending in dramatic elements and providing us with a lot to sink our teeth into in terms of his juxtapositions between Gil’s modern-day life and the wonder of his wanderings at midnight. Its complexities and indeed its ability to invoke emotion must be acclaimed, and despite his hatred for his own creations and his refusal to acknowledge awards bestowed upon him by those egregious toffs that head up the Oscars – as he would no doubt call them – somewhere deep inside him a hidden ego fully deserves to purr with satisfaction at this success.
Both cinematographer Darius Khondji and composer Stephane Wrembel also deserve mentions for evoking the Parisian atmosphere so effectively. Khondji aims to mirror the impressionist style so associated with Paris stylistically and his work is well complemented by Wrembel’s warbling French jazz accompaniments; making for some gorgeous viewing, genuinely enhancing the experience and probably deserving of nominations at the Oscars that they never got.
As far as criticisms are concerned, there really are very few. The low budget means that sometimes the spell the film puts you under is broken by something such as a tacky depiction of rain, but this isn’t really all that important when the film instantly engages you again, and can even ensure that you put this sort of error to the back of your mind. Aside from this, as far as criticisms are concerned we are reaching the stage where I am grasping manfully at things like shirt colours, because nearly everything is close to perfect.
Midnight in Paris quietened those critics who said Allen had left his glory days behind and turned into a film-producing machine, churning stylised romcom after stylised romcom out every year. With this picture, he proved that his talent for a creative and touchingly sentimental story has not gone walkabout at all, but rather still stands strong. This genre certainly missed the visionary with the ability to metaphorically ram Hugh Grant’s smug face and mechanised smile into a pinewood table with sheer originality and verve, and for this act alone we should be willing to welcome his additions, be they of the more disappointing kind or as majestic and emotion inducing as this one is. Allen shakes the mantra provided by all the romantic garbage that chases us around the cinema so doggedly by politely asking them and their laboured and monotonous stories to move aside and allow for something that can genuinely spark interest in the audience, rather than send them off to sleep with sheer annoyance at the way Jennifer Aniston insists on pretending that she has furthered her career since Friends finally ran aground by filming the same movie on a loop for the next 3,000 years. From the entire film world, Woody, I thank you for freeing us from this cycle of sheer, mind numbing, head-banging, exasperating and quite simply annoying garbage and replacing it with this. I can’t remember feeling as good after finishing a movie of this ilk as I did after Midnight in Paris, so thank you also for helping me remember what a good romcom should be like, and all without spending $90mn on a “romantic” ferry or huge wedding for the story’s setting.