Best Movies of All Time + [Woody Allen]

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS-13

"No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure."
-- Ernest Hemingway

Midnight in Paris is a 2011 romantic comedy directed by Woody Allen that holds a rather fantastical feel. While Gil (Owen Wilson), an accomplished screenwriter but struggling novelist, vacations in Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents, he attempts to craft his current attempt at a novel - a story of the owner of a nostalgia store - into something profound and interesting. One night after a wine tasting, Gil finds himself lost in the city. As the clock strikes midnight, however, an older-style car pulls up to the curb, and the passengers beckon for him to join them. Within moments, Gil finds himself at a lavish party surrounded by literary types from decades before. After a little bit of time, as well as a meeting with the Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Gil realizes he has been transported into the Parisian 1920s, an era that he truly loves and adores. Gil begins to return to the same curb each night, and he begins to make the acquaintances of the likes of Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and a young woman named Adriana (Marion Cotillard), whom he starts to fancy. His nightly outings become his newfound joy as he tries to balance these magical experiences with his humdrum livelihood in the present day, where Inez seems to be falling into an adulterous affair with pseudo-intellectual Paul (Michael Sheen).

I was fortunate enough to go into this film moderately blind. I've known about the film for some time, and I have been eager to watch it since it opened to fantastic critical reviews. In the past few weeks, Midnight in Paris has been striking it rich with awards nominations, most notably receiving a total of four nominations for the Golden Globe Awards. Most of the critical praise has been for Allen himself, both for his directing capability as well as his well-crafted screenplay. In terms of the film's story, however, I went in completely blind. All I knew was that it was an Allen-directed film that starred Owen Wilson, and that it was receiving great reviews. Sometimes, that's the best way to go into a film.

All that said, this review might make a few of my readers take a step back. I'll just come out and say this now: I did not love Midnight in Paris. That's not to say, however, that I didn't like it. It proved to be an entertaining flick that had me rolling with laughter at times, and some of the references to classic literary and art figures were brilliant. Still, I had a few issues with the movie as a whole.

Let's start with the screenplay, shall we? I do think that Allen has created a very inventive and clever piece here, and as is often the case, his dialogue is the real strength of the film. Some of the rambling quotes from the Hemingway character are simply fantastic, but even our lead in Gil is given quite a bit of room with which to work. I also liked the ultimate revelation that the Gil character learns towards film's end, and the fact that it all comes full circle is a major plus. My issue, however, is that it was all terribly predictable. From the moment that Gil stepped into the past, so to speak, I knew where the film was headed. I immediately picked up on the realization that it took Gil another seventy-five minutes to learn and understand. This predictability doesn't necessarily take away from the statement the film makes, but it does lessen the power of that statement. Had it been hidden until Gil's realization, I think the film could have proven a deep and powerful piece; as it currently stands, however, the predictability ultimately takes away the emotional power.

There's no real way I can knock on the acting in the film, although I didn't find it all that brilliant as a whole. As previously stated, most of the positive critical response has been for Allen's work behind the scenes, but there has been some mention of the cast as well (i.e., Wilson, McAdams and Stoll have all received nominations for their performances from various awards shows and critic groups). Wilson does well as our leading character, but I found it difficult to distance myself from his previous work. In the past, he's done so many lesser comedies that placing him in a film like this made him seem a little out of place. That being said, however, I do think he does well with what he's given, and Allen did a great job with writing his character in a way that Wilson could perform well. McAdams started out well but started to get on my nerves a little bit towards film's end. The two best performances in the film have to go to Michael Sheen and Corey Stoll. From the moment he stepped on-screen, I hated Sheen's Paul, and that was entirely the point of the character. And Stoll, as the legendary Hemingway, offers the film's best performance. He's utterly brilliant, and I only wish the film would have incorporated his character a little bit more. Marion Cotillard does well as the film's other central female character, and we get a good, although severely limited, performance from Kathy Bates. Also be on the lookout for a fantastic cameo from Adrien Brody.

If anything is working exceptionally well in the film, it's the soundtrack. The film's opening scene sets the tone with a montage of shots around Paris, and the background music helps create the Parisian mood and atmosphere. As Gil travels back and forth in time, the music successfully transitions as well, offering something a little bit different so that we know we've been taken to another time. Truly a greatly-pieced together soundtrack.

At the end of the day, Midnight in Paris is a good film that strives to be a great one. The critical consensus on Rottentomatoes.com offers the following insight to the film:

It may not boast the depth of his classic films, but the sweetly sentimental Midnight in Paris is funny and charming enough to satisfy Woody Allen fans.
I have to agree with the statement. It's by no means a bad film, but it just doesn't quite measure up to the Allen films of old. Still, it's a fun romp through the streets and times of Paris, and for that, it should be applauded and enjoyed.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: A-
1.5 Thumbs Up