Movie Review: Midnight in Paris

Editor’s Note: Midnight in Paris will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1 in the Upstairs Meeting Rooms at Mesa Public Library.

Movie Review By Elizabeth Wasilewska

Midnight in Paris – a 2010 comedy written and directed by Woody Allen – begins with a series of snapshots of Paris: rainy streets, cafes, cobblestone pathways.

This sequence mirrors the movie’s overall tone: a romantic, cheery wander through an artificial but charming Paris.

The character who wanders the most is Gil (Owen Wilson), a writer on vacation with his fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her parents.

Although he is comfortably wealthy and has a successful career, he is dissatisfied with the world around him: he would much rather live in his fantastical vision of a Paris from another era.

“Imagine this city in the rain in the twenties,” he sighs, to which Inez accuses, “you’re in love with a fantasy.”

It is clear that he and Inez share nothing in common but mutual annoyance with each other.

McAdams and Wilson are well-cast as these foils: McAdams has a chipper demeanor and professionalism, while Wilson is perpetually slouched and distracted, absorbed by his own inner world. Inez is one of several characters who can’t stand Gil’s romanticism; her parents quickly learn to salvage the relaxing quality of their vacation time by ignoring him.

It’s no wonder that Gil would want to escape this world. The miracle is that he does escape — to 1920’s Paris In the Rain, in fact.

Every midnight, Gil sneaks away from Inez and her family to a narrow cobblestone street, where he meets up with iconic literary figures from the 20’s; Picasso, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald take an immediate liking to Gil.

With the help of a talented cast that includes Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody and Kathy Bates, as well as a hilarious script, these eccentric historical figures come to life.

The script brims with quips and historical anecdotes — so many that is hard to pick up on all of them in one viewing, if ever.

There is a bittersweet tinge to the film’s humor. In one scene, Gil tries to explain his marital problems to Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel, but all they seem to recognize in his story is themselves and their art. And his personal connections to the past make it even more awkward for him when he returns to the modern world every morning and has to visit tourist sites with Inez and her family.

Where they see artifacts and dates, Gil sees people; when they look at a Picasso painting, Gil actually sees Picasso. This joke, in all its variations, never gets old.

Midnight in Paris is a harmless venture into an idyllic, quirky and beautiful past. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a postcard, and it is a lightly funny and beautiful postcard.

The picture of 1920’s Paris is both convincing and enchanting; and it is hard not to share a knowing smile with Gil when we return to the modern world.

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