PG-13. 94 min. Comedy, Fantasy, Romance. 2011, USA. Director/writer: Woody Allen. Cast: Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, Marion Cottilard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Owen Wilson.
Is the grass really greener on the other side? Or, in this case, on the days of yore?
Midnight in Paris explores this in a charming, alluring, and wonderfully surreal manner. Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), an accomplished yet conflicted Hollywood screenwriter turned aspiring novelist, is in love with the city of Paris and his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams). The couple is vacationing in the city along with Inez’s wealthy parents. Disillusioned by the chance meeting with Inez’s pseudo-intellectual college friend Paul (Michael Sheen), Gil chooses to explore the city that he and his literary idols of the 1920s dearly admire and stroll around the city at midnight. The magical adventure that soon unravels will lead him to a ‘perplexing situation’ and change his life.
That much can be said without giving away the storyline too much. However, consider this: Midnight in Paris is not for everyone. Arts and literature enthusiast, most likely of a certain age, will obviously appreciate it the most, but that’s not to say they are the only ones who can enjoy it. The beautiful shots of The City of Light, accompanied with the soothing, delightful music of Cole Porter and Sidney Bechet, and the sheer contagious excitement of Gil discovering his dreams unfolding before his eyes (to which Owen Wilson deserves credit for keeping the film’s romantically nostalgic tone very much intact) are enough to lure anyone. If that’s not enough, surely the dazzling Marion Cottilard will clinch it.
Most of all, though, literature enthusiast or not, one should be able to relate to some degree to the main premise: is the past really better than the ‘dull’ present? Woody Allen certainly relates to it. Throughout the film you can’t help but notice that this is the director’s own attempt at answering the question; and that Gil is Allen himself. Perhaps that’s why the film feels so earnest and unassuming. We tend to produce our most heartfelt work when we seek for answers.
Finally, Midnight in Paris is uplifting as it is enchanting. It does not set out to convince us that the present is better than the past because 2010 is better than the 1920s, or that the 1920s is better than 1890s and the Renaissance. The present is better because we occupy it. Gil shows us that if your heart is in the right place, your feet will lead you to it … quite literally. (Ghian Tjandaputra Muhammad)