Sunday, June 12, 2011
I can't really talk about Midnight in Paris in terms of Woody Allen's career as many have - many say it's his best in years. I really couldn't tell you because despite all the film-watching I do, I have never really kept up with the ultra-prolific director. I can tell you, however, that it's a thoroughly enjoying, inoffensive, lovely film for and about Romantics and the nostalgic. How anyone could not like the film is a mystery to me.
Midnight tells the tale of a writer, played by Owen Wilson, who is obviously a stand-in for Allen himself. He's in Paris with his snobby fiance and her snobby parents doing boring snobby things with their pedantic friends. One night, instead of dancing (can't imagine Woody dancing), he decides to take some air and once the clock strikes Midnight, he's approached by an old-fashioned buggy that whisks him away to the 1920's and the company of many historical luminaries (mostly writers and artists). They use their various expertise to help Wilson's character with his professional and personal matters, which are sometimes one in the same.
Not a whole lot happens in these encounters except talking, but the talking is highly enjoyable. Hemingway is prominently featured and his spirit is captured wonderfully. Adrien Brody's performance as Dali is another highlight of the film, as is the entire scene with the three surrealists. F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgeralds are also delightfully portrayed in the film by Tom Hiddleson (Thor's Loki) and Alison Pill.
Through an encounter with Gertrude Stein and Picasso, Wilson meets and subsequently falls for Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard. This brings him some conflict about whether he can have a wife and a mistress, but it's the lack of any sustained conflict that makes this film so enjoyable. We don't really care if he's unfaithful to his fiance because, frankly, she's not very nice or pleasant and Adriana is. This lack of conflict extends to the chronological and psychological as well. Nothing is thrown off or warped by Wilson's "time-traveling" and consorting with historical figures, nor is there any hint that he's making it all up in his head. He's not crazy, there's no overt magic at play or time machines or any need to explain what exactly is going on with him. It's very simple, after Midnight, he goes back to this era that he loves (and has the potential to visit other eras too apparently) and it's real because it's really happening to him.
Films, including a lot of comedies, make too much of unnecessary conflicts between characters. What we have in Midnight is something of an internal conflict and not one that's causing a terrible amount of strife even. Wilson's character is nostalgic for a bygone era that, to him, is the golden age. Upon meeting Adriana, he realizes that there are people like him in every era, who pine for days gone by. He can't very well live out his life in the 1920's Paris, even if he wanted to, but how does he reconcile this with the reality of his present? He has to capture what's golden about that age and insert it into his, which entails a permanent move to Paris.
The performances in Midnight in Paris are all quite good, especially Wilson's. The look of the film, especially in the period scenes is beautiful and whimsically rendered. I only wish I knew more about the characters and era portrayed in the film, but I appreciate Allen's expository restraint. He's obviously very knowledgeable about the figures he includes in the film and it's a credit to him as a writer for being able to give them all a voice. The point of these portrayals wasn't to learn about these characters, but instead to experience them.
A fun, lovely film.
Posted by The Schmoo at 7:02 PM