Heart and humour marry in Midnight in Paris
The past can be an immense source of comfort when we find ourselves bored and disillusioned with the present. It tempts us, beguiles us to return to it. At worst, this longing for what was lost can be harmful and self-destructive, as it can lead one to neglect important details of personal zeitgeist. At best, it is merely unproductive in the most charmingly benign fashion.
Nowhere have I seen this sentiment expressed in a more inventive and humorous way than in Woody Allen’s latest comic fantasy, Midnight in Paris.
Owen Wilson portrays a financially successful but personally dissatisfied Hollywood screenwriter named Gil Pender. Gil is enamored of Paris and considering settling there to complete a novel. His more earthly and self-absorbed fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), does not share this romantic vision, preferring instead to live in a comfortable, cushy Californian suburb. Both have come to Paris to visit Inez’s parents traipse around the City of Lights shopping and taking in various works of art.
Unable to withstand the company of his soon-to-be wife and her pretentious know-it-all friends, Gil takes a walk at midnight. He is transported into the Jazz Age of the 1920s and meets several artistic and literary idols who were indigenous to said epoch. Witty banter, historical inside jokes and a romance that grows and stretches across time ensue.
Owen Wilson channels Allen’s spirit in his portrayal of Allen’s trademark character: an awkward and confused soul constantly tripping over his own feet, completely out of place in his assigned surroundings. But Wilson adds a complimentary layer of wide-eyed idealistic innocence to Gil, giving us a wholly sympathetic and well-rounded comic protagonist.
The ensemble cast seems to be having a lot of fun in their various costume pieces. Of particular note is Adrian Brody, who completely steals his one scene as the delightfully deranged surrealist painter Salvador Dali.
The writing is top-notch, as we’ve come to expect from Allen. There are plenty of laughs along the way, especially picks up on the jokes relating to famous authors and artists from times past. But there is also a small amount of weight and substance to this film’s flights of fantasy.
Allen takes the concept of nostalgia and obsession with the past and explores it with a buoyant playfulness that is thoroughly enjoyable to watch.
Midnight in Paris is a film that bounces on the solid ground provided by its intriguing premise and charming, albeit crazy cast of characters. It possesses an healthy quantity of humour and heart.
It is an enchanting ode to a city where so many lost souls go to lose even more of themselves only to find themselves again.