Film: Midnight in Paris

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

Midnight in Paris is a 2010 film directed by Woody Allen, set in Paris and focusing on a young Hollywood hack named Gil (played by Owen Wilson) as he attempts to write his first true novel, whilst also dealing with his increasingly rocky relationship. The writing of the novel serves more as a mechanism by which to move the plot forward than the centrepoint it first seems, but this proves to be no bad thing once the film gets going. I say this because the first twenty minutes of Midnight in Paris set the scene for a far different movie to the one that actually plays out, introducing a looming wedding and cracks in the relationship, both of which seem to point towards a more standard romcom type plot than that which actually unfolds.

This assumption is proven wrong during the middle of the first act when the passenger of a 1920’s era car pulls up alongside Wilson and motions him inside, handing him a flute of champagne and introducing him to the other occupants of the vehicle. Amongst the passengers of the car are F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who spirit Wilson’s character away to the 1920’s heyday that he’s always dreamed of living in. It is at this point that the film truly hits its stride, not in the story told but in the pantheon of famous figures introduced to Wilson, including Hemingway, Picasso and Dali (the latter expertly portrayed by Adrian Brody), all wrapped up in a cautionary tale of the dangers of nostalgia.

The story itself is not bad by any means, but in trying to make Gil likeable Allen seems to make the mistake of simply making every other modern day character grating and jaded. Whilst this does the job of making the viewer immediately root for the young writer following his dreams it also results in some modern day scenes dragging on, especially in contrast with the beautifully portrayed and acted world of the 1920’s. Added to this is a rather contrived ending that seems tacked on simply to adhere to the Hollywood rule that the main character’s life must be perfect by the time the credits roll. Overall Midnight in Paris is not perfect by any means, but is pushed from average to good by the superb depictions of jazz age figures and the inherant likeability of Wilson’s character.


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