Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen’s Love Letter to the City of Light

Midnight in Paris

Leave it to Woody Allen to film not only a love letter to Paris with his latest film, but also a love letter to the Moveable Feast of the 1920s.The result is a feast for any moviegoer who loves his films, loves Paris, or loves the artists and writers who frequented the city during that era.

Midnight in Paris‘ opens with long, loving shots of the city’s stone walks, stately buildings, meandering rivers and romantic vistas. With a light bistro-jazz soundtrack playing in the background, we know right away this is classic Woody Allen.

Midnight in ParisOf course, there’s a Woody Allen character, because there’s always a Woody Allen character – a slightly neurotic, befuddled guy who’s surrounded by folks who don’t understand him. In this case, it’s Gil (Owen Wilson), a screenwriter who’s unhappy being a Hollywood hack who spews out drivel for the mainstream masses. So he’s working on a novel about a nostalgia shop owner. Gil feels like he’s on the cusp of a breakthrough in his career.

On a holiday in Paris with his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents John and Helen (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), Gil discovers that the city is magical beyond its surface beauty. Every night at midnight, he’s mysteriously transported back to the 1920s to mingle with his idols. Among them are Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Cole Porter (Yves Heck), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates).

Gil even finds a beautiful muse in Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who adores him, despite her passing romances with the likes of Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo). All of this is in stark contrast to Inez’s frustrated sighs whenever Gil talks about breaking free of his current life. She clearly doesn’t understand his fascination with Paris or nostalgia or a more enlightened existence.

We don’t question why this time-traveling portal opens up every night at midnight. We just go along for the ride. You can kind of see where all this is headed. Gil’s unhappy with his current life and seeking something better. But is that something better in the past, or can it be found in the present if he just opens his eyes to the possibilities?

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris‘ was the opening film at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and it’s the second time this honor was given to a Woody Allen film, the first being ‘[amazon_link id=”B00023P4JW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Hollywood Ending[/amazon_link]’ at the 2002 festival. Most people either love his films or don’t love them. I happen to love them, and count among my favorites ‘Annie Hall,’ ‘Manhattan’ and ‘Hannah and Her Sisters.’

I’m less familiar with his later work and need to catch up on films like ‘Whatever Works’ (2009),  ‘Cassandra’s Dream’ (2007) and ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ (2010). A Woody Allen marathon is definitely in order.

Until then, I’ll bask in the magical glow of ‘Midnight in Paris,’ a delightful film that’s not only a stunning travelogue for the City of Light (it will be included in my next installment of Great Travel Movies), but also a nostalgic look back at the writers and artists of the 1920s. I love that Woody Allen’s locations are yet another character in his movies; he really makes full use of the gorgeous scenery in Paris.

And while I love Owen Wilson and think he plays a formidable neurotic, I hope Woody Allen stars in his next film, because it’s comforting to see his neuroses played out on screen. It makes us feel better about our own neuroses, and it looks like I’ll be rewarded with ‘Bop Decameron,’ a Rome-based comedy starring Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, and Jesse Eisenberg, due in theaters in 2012.

One note of interest: I happen to be two two degrees away from Corey Stoll, who plays Ernest Hemingway in ‘Midnight in Paris’ — check out this great piece about him in the Los Angeles Times.

‘Midnight in Paris’ is rated PG-13 for some sexual references and smoking.

More reviews of ‘Midnight in Paris’:

New York Observer, Rex Reed: “In a film so ripe with temptations for posturing, exaggeration and satirical overacting, nobody is anything less than natural, unpretentious and funny as hell.”

San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle: “A movie that’s loving and wistful and often hysterically funny.”

St. Petersburg Times, Steve Persall: “Allen eventually gets to the heart of this matter: the allure and danger of nostalgia.”

Movieline, Stephanie Zacharek: “The best Allen movie in 10 years, or maybe even close to 20 – is all about that idea: Reckoning with the past as a real place, but also worrying about the limits of nostalgia.”

Box Office Magazine, Pete Hammond: “Woody Allen’s time-travelling comedy Midnight In Paris is a valentine to Paris and an absolute delight.”


22 responses to “Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen’s Love Letter to the City of Light”

  1. NoPotCoooking Avatar

    I was so puzzled by this movie when it opened. Isn’t Owen Wilson a guy-move kind of actor? He was in the Wedding Crashers. I always had him in that category of gross, indecent humor movies. You make this movie sound so great though, maybe I will give it a try (even though it is only open at the independent theater with the 40 year old seats and the bad popcorn!

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

      I know, right? I’ve got Owen Wilson’s ‘Hall Pass’ sitting here, and it’s bizarre to think of him going from that film to a Woody Allen film. But I’ll reserve judgment until I actually watch ‘Hall Pass.’ It’s Farrelly Brothers, and I do like some of their stuff.

  2. Vera Marie Badertscher Avatar

    From the clip it looks like Wilson was channeling Woody Allen. I’m very excited about this movie. How wonderful for Allen lovers and for Paris lovers–which together probably takes in about 2/3 of the planet.

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

      Owen Wilson definitely has a Woody Allen vibe going. He doesn’t seem like he has to work at it too hard, either. 🙂

  3. VeraMarieBadertscher ( Avatar

    Love Woody? Love Paris? RT @reellifejane Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris – a love letter to the City: http://t.co/LVFh8ci #movies #reviews

  4. Alexandra Avatar

    Having lived in Paris for 25 years, I am really looking forward to this movie. I worked for a while as a relocation expert and loved finding beautiful apartments for Americans with mega budgets. Paris is a magical city, it’s true. I love the idea of a time-traveling portal! It’s easy to slip into when you are walking around, imagining all the history that took place on the same cobblestones …

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

      I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts after you see the movie. Let us know if it captures the essence of Paris.

  5. ChezSven ( Avatar

    Love Woody? Love Paris? RT @reellifejane Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris – a love letter to the City: http://t.co/LVFh8ci #movies #reviews

  6. Living Large Avatar

    You know, I just have never been able to look at Woody Allen’s name and not think of some old pervert who carried on with and then married his own stepdaughter. But I’m guessing that Owen Wilson does channel a good neurotic in the film.

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

      I know – that’s always in the back of my mind, too. I try to set it aside because I do love Woody Allen’s filmmaking expertise.

  7. Christine Avatar

    I love Paris. I’m definitely going to look for this movie; I’m so glad to have read your review!

  8. VeraMarieBadertscher ( Avatar

    Love Woody? Love Paris? RT @reellifejane Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris – a love letter to the City: http://t.co/LVFh8ci

  9. Susan Johnston Avatar

    I absolutely loved this movie! Beautiful shots of Paris, funny, relatable characters, and a glimpse at the city in an earlier time. Highly recommended!

  10. Casey Avatar

    ooh, Bop Decameron sounds even better than Midnight in Paris! Can I see it NOW??

  11. MyKidsEatSquid Avatar

    Woody Allen movies haven’t appealed to me in the past, but this one does look good. Granted, it doesn’t seem like I’m ever able to sneak away to see a movie

  12. Sheryl Avatar

    I’m so glad I saw this movie. I loved everything about it. Typical Woody Allen…a good thing, since I’ve really missed his original style. And I think the premise is so much fun. I also happened to think Owen Wilson made a perfect Woody Allen-type character.

  13. Jane Boursaw ( Avatar

    @lauramartone Midnight in Paris is definitely worth the drive if you’re a Woody Allen fan: http://t.co/8G66gXi #movies #film

  14. […] right (and wrong): Owen Wilson, searching for literary inspiration in Midnight in Paris | Sony1. Midnight in Paris (2011, PG-13) The fantasy: When a screenwriter trying to pen the Great American novel (Owen Wilson) […]

  15. […] points out the exclusion of Albert Brooks and Ryan Gosling in Drive, as well as Adrien Brody in Midnight in Paris. “Brody’s performance was probably the most delightful of the entire year for me,” […]

  16. […] 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 […]

  17. […] probably took notice of the WGA’s choices. Often they coincide. Just last year, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris won an Oscar for original screenplay after picking up the nod from the […]

  18. […] and never turns up for these shindigs. He received an Academy Award for the screenplay for “Midnight in Paris” in 2012, and he didn’t even turn up for that ceremony […]

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