I have a love/hate relationship with Woody Allen films. They are either brilliant or stick your head in the toilet bad.
Midnight in Paris is on the brilliant side. This is Allen’s 41st film, and highest grossing movie ever. It has also received four Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Art Direction.
What a script ! What a cast ! What a director !
Yes I loved this one. But you’ve figured that out already…
It’s an intriguing storyline. Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is a successful but disatisfied Hollywood screenwriter in Paris with his annoying fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. To avoid spending an evening with some of Inez’s pretentious friends Gil wanders alone through Paris.
As the clock stikes midnight a Peugot rolls up complete with driver in an open front, and the occupants talk him in to going with them. Gil ends up at a party where Cole Porter is playing the piano, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald introduce themselves to him, and the night is just getting started. Before the night has finished Gil ends up in a bar chatting with a rather pugnacious Hemingway who promises to take Gil’s manuscript to Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates).
Well that was me a goner. What a writer’s dream.
It gets better.
I like Owen Wilson – have ever since I saw him in Meet The Parents. As a kid who grew up addicted to Starsky and Hutch, he was playing with fire taking on Hutch’s role in the movie, but it was that film that cemented my joy in watching Owen Wilson on screen. Woody’s choice of him for this role was genius and he is perfect as the distracted unaffected writer.
Rachel McAdams is a joy as the pushy fiance who is clearly riding the gravy train of Gil’s successful screenwriting career and wants to knock any ideas of becoming a struggling novelist out the door, down the path and in to the nearest rubbish bin. Rachel is another favourite of mine, she has such great comedic timing. But don’t dismiss her as a lightweight. She held her own dramatically in State of Play with Russell Crowe, and I loved her role as Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes.
But back to the movie…
Gil leaves the bar (and Hemingway) to fetch his manuscript only to find on going back that the bar is now a laundromat.
The following night Gil takes Inez with him to the same place the car picked him up. They wait and wait but alas no car…leaving Inez to head back to the hotel thinking Gil is an idiot and Gil thinking maybe he has a brain tumour.
But as he ponders events the clock strikes midnight, and the magic begins all over again with Hemingway arriving to pick him up. At Gertude Stein’s home he meets Picasso and his mistress Adriana, whom Gil has a case of the hots for.
Gil’s disappearance every night begins to arouse Inez’s father’s curiosity. Kurt Fuller is great as the pompous John. Kurt was one of my favourite villians in Supernatural where he played the petty, nasty, well just downright evil angel Zachariah. As much as I loved Dean sticking it to Zachariah, I missed his machinations on the show.
The detective Inez’s father hires provides a wonderfully comic moment toward the end of the movie – but you’ll have to watch it to find out.
Michael Sheen is another actor that needs mentioning – his role as the ‘psuedo intellectual’ Paul is priceless, as are the exchanges between his character and Wilson’s.
The cast has been cleverly assembled by Allen and they work perfectly together.
- Owen Wilson as Gil Pender
- Rachel McAdams as Inez
- Kurt Fuller as John, Inez’s father
- Mimi Kennedy as Helen, Inez’s mother
- Michael Sheen as Paul Bates
- Nina Arianda as Carol Bates
- Carla Bruni as Museum Guide
- Yves Heck as Cole Porter
- Alison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald
- Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway
- Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Sonia Rolland as Josephine Baker
- Daniel Lundh as Juan Belmonte
- Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein
- Marcial Di Fonzo Bo as Pablo Picasso
- Marion Cotillard as Adriana
- Léa Seydoux as Gabrielle
- Emmanuelle Uzan as Djuna Barnes
- Adrien Brody as Salvador Dalí
- Tom Cordier as Man Ray
- Adrien de Van as Luis Buñuel
- Gad Elmaleh as Detective Tisserant
- David Lowe as T. S. Eliot
- Yves-Antoine Spoto as Henri Matisse
- Laurent Claret as Leo Stein
- Vincent Menjou Cortes as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- Olivier Rabourdin as Paul Gauguin
- François Rostain as Edgar Degas
Did you notice that France’s First Lady has a role ?
This movie is clever, funny, and has a point. In longing for the past, in making it more than it was, we often miss the miraculous moments of the present. This is the lesson Gil has to learn from his trips back to the 1920’s.
It got me thinking.
What age do I consider the golden age ?
I was surprised by my answer.
This age !!!
Are there people from previous ages I would love to meet ?
But each age has its geniuses, its own clarity if we would but stop looking back to better times.
Still – I will confess to this.
I would not have minded one night with Gil as he partied with the Fitzgeralds and Hemingway and T.S. Eliot.
If you haven’t seen this movie – do !!
Even if you’re not a Woody Allen fan – sometimes the man gets it right.