Movie: Midnight in Paris (NEW 2011), written and directed by Woody Allen
What a delicious confection of a movie. If you are craving a hearty boeuf Bourguignon of a movie, go elsewhere, but if a simple little meringue melting on your tongue sounds heavenly–this movie is the dish for you. But it may be the best Paris travel movie of the decade. It shows EVERY major tourist site, instead of just the usual establishing shot of the Eiffel Tower.
It really doesn’t matter whether you are in the pro- or anti- Woody Allen category, Midnight in Paris is a treat for a) lovers of Paris; b) lovers of literature; c) lovers of art; d) lovers of the past (as in: any time but the present would be an improvement); e) lovers.
Briefly, Gil Pender, a Hollywood writer who wants to write a novel is engaged to a beautiful young woman who doesn’t get his yearning for a romanticized Paris (in the twenties, in the rain). Everything changes when, at midnight one night, he travels to the Paris of the 20’s and starts meeting literary lights and famous artists. He ultimately has to navigate between his dissatisfaction with his present day life and his fantasy.
My friend Jane Boursaw over at Reel Life With Jane said that she would prefer to see Woody Allen playing out his own neurosis, but I have to part company with Jane on this one. Owen Wilson, as Gil, channels Woody, but is a much more attractive actor. Maybe Woody has finally realized how obscene it looks to have him romancing women 40 years younger than he is (regardless of how his own private life goes down).
If you’re trying to place Owen Wilson, it is because the dumb bulb characters he usually plays would not be bright enough to recognize Zelda and [amazon_link id=”1883011841″ target=”_blank” ]Scott Fitzgerald[/amazon_link] if he ran into them at a post-midnight party in Paris. And if you enjoy playing this movie’s game of “Isn’t that–oh, you know, the famous 1920’s surrealist painter?” and can pick up a French phrase here and there, then you probably don’t go to a lot of buddy movies.
[amazon_image id=”015121185X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Complete Poems and Plays: 1909-1950[/amazon_image]The writer gets picked up in a 1920’s cab by a guy named Tom Eliot and Gil stammers, “Thomas Stearns Eliot? T.S. Eliot? Prufrock is practically my theme song.” Nope, not the kind of dialogue that Owen usually gets to say, but he’s winsome and convincing as the movie script writer/wannabe novelist who is in love with the idea of a Paris that never quite existed outside of misty-eyed memoirs like Ernest Hemingway’s [amazon_link id=”143918271X” target=”_blank” ]Moveable Feast[/amazon_link].
While all the casting of the famous people seemed spot on, there are two that really made the movie for me. Kathy Bates is genius as Gertrude Stein. And Corey Stoll, who plays Hemingway had me choking on my nachos with laughter. I heard him interviewed on PBS and read this interview in the Los Angeles Times, and so I knew that he had no intention of presenting a realistic Hemingway, but rather the one that the celebrity-worshiping Gil would conjure up if he imagined Hemingway. He sounded like he was reading his dialogue from a Hemingway novel. The performance was brave and true. Because that is what a man does. He speaks the truth. He kills the bull.
Just one final thing–as I said above, this could be a travel guidebook–and certainly is a perfect travel movie to watch if you are heading for Paris, but Woody Allen shows Paris as we have not seen it before. Everything is saturated in a golden light, giving it the dreamlike quality that matches Gil’s misty-eyed view of the city. The only one of the photographs above that even begins to capture that tint is the one shot in the rain on a bridge over the Seine.
Photos come from the official movie site, which also has a lot of other interesting information, including a trailer.
Have you seen this movie? If yes, what did you think? If not, will you?