An Experiment – I’m trying something new: for the second time I’m creating an audio version the review (read by yours truly) below. If this is something you might be interested in future reviews (is it helpful, it doesn’t matter to you or it gets in the way), please let me know in the comments below, as well as any feedback on the reading itself. Thanks
In Midnight in Paris we see the magic of Woody Allen come alive. Gil (Owen Wilson) is drawn into ’20s Paris connecting with the Lost Generation in a pure and honest relationship with Ernest Hemingway, the fiery relationship of Picasso with Adriana and his relationship to the city. Midnight in Paris is an enjoyable, fairly light romp into this lovely Paris, the City of Lights, peopled with caricatures of famous figures while allowing us to recognize our craving for authentic living.
So, for a guy who mostly writes about books, this is the third movie in a row I’ve reviewed with another Woody Allen film, Magic in the Moonlight being one and The Hundred-Foot Journey, the other. Part of this is just serendipity, but I’m on a bit of tear through some missed Woody Allen films, so next is To Rome with Love.
Owen Wilson plays Gil perfectly as an unpretentious writer who is intelligent but allows others expectations to drive his life. He so easily follows and is all too pliable. His fiancé, Inez, while not the most unpleasant of women, is prosaic in her thinking, as is her family. Gil however, as the above poster intimates, lives in a Chagallian colored world with more vibrancy than her family will allow.
Gil thinks the answer to all of this is a more romantic time in which he engages both the physical lights of Paris reflected in raindrops and the literary luminaries of the Lost Generation of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dali, Man Ray and Gertrude Stein. Woody Allen plays them broad and comedic while still conveying the excitement in the city for arts and literature. I especially like Hemingway with his true, brave and clean brevity and desire for a fight and Dali’s maniacal fascination with Gil’s nose as reminiscent of a rhinoceros. As always in a Woody Allen film, the entire cast was amazing ensemble, with each, in their turn, perfection. Michael Sheen’s perfectly pompous pedantic is precisely the personality to present. Seriously, he does a great job with the role- plays it up without becoming a hammy cartoon character. Corey Stoll’s Hemingway is so much fun to watch as is Andrien Brody’s Dali; both are broad-brush drawings of the men, really playing their characteristics out on their sleeve. It works, especially considering what they have to convey in relatively brief screen time.
The film mainly deals with two tried-and-true themes – don’t be afraid to follow your heart but don’t get fooled that the grass is greener in another time or place. Gil has to come to grips with following his passion while realizing what that passion truly is. Mr. Allen explores these issue through Gil’s encounter with the characters and times. The non-subtle portrayals of the time, place and people provide a stark contrast for Gil to see that his apparent dilemma is based on a false dichotomy.
There are so many levels on which to enjoy this story – the romances and relationships between Gil and his fiancé Inez, Gil and Adriana from the ’20s crowd, Gil and his work as a script writer and book author and Gil and his times and that of the 20s. Each of these aspects are done well, but the way that they’re woven together in the film is genius.
This is a fun and thoughtful, well acted movie with a strong cast through-out. For Woody Allen, it’s pretty tame on the sexual innuendo and language. It’s one of my favorite Wood Allen films and I highly recommend it.