Midnight in Paris follows Gil and his fiancé, Inez, as he tries to write his first novel while also appeasing Inez and her parents. Obsessed with the past, he is transported to 1920s Paris and gallivants with his idols (the Fitzgeralds, Dali, Picasso…) and through his explorations of the past, finds clarity in his present.
Woody Allen is one of my favorite directors, and this was one of the first modern Allen films I watched. At first, seeing Owen Wilson cast in a serious Woody Allen role made me nervous, but he was expertly cast. He brings such an everyday-guy nature to the character that makes him inherently likeable while surrounded with over the top characters like his materialistic wife, her Republican parents, and her pseudo-intellectual friends. He plays the bewildered time travel with a resigned awe that makes him the perfect lens to see these iconic figures through.
The concept alone is a brilliant idea for a film, but it needed an expert director to bring the gravitas and beauty to it, and Allen comes through. Each scene is shot to look like a painting and so the inclusion of famous past artists like Picasso and Dali makes the whole thing feel like a moving art piece. The cast is loaded with A-list talent including Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Tom Hiddleston, and Marion Cotillard. What could have become a simple ensemble comedy weaves each character so perfectly into the narrative that it feels natural.
This film is a beautiful reflection on artistry and creativity as well as the very notion of nostalgia and how relative it is to each generation. Each era longs for the magic of the past, as is the power of hindsight. Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald weren’t classics until they were dead, and so their nostalgia would lie with Shakespeare and Chaucer’s time of great literary works just as Gil idolizes and wishes to return their present and his distant past. It is a brilliant reflection on the important things in life and the importance of making the present the best it can be instead of living in the past.
A reflection on life, time, and love Midnight in Paris provides a film both visually stunning to look at but also one that makes you ready to seize the day and not waste time living a life that doesn’t captivate you. This is one of my favorite films from possibly my favorite director of all time, and Woody Allen does not disappoint bringing his signature witty dialogue, quirky character depictions, and thought-provoking story to another modern classic.