Midnight in Paris is about unsatisfied Hollywood screenwriter Gil Pender who spends a vacation in Paris with his fiancee and her parents. While he is trying to write a novel about a man who works in a nostalgia shop, he also plans to move in to Paris, to the disagreement of his fiancee.
One night, as he is walking around the streets of Paris drunk, a car arrives, transporting him to the 1920s where he got to meet art and literary personalities like Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and especially, Adriana, Picasso’s mistress, among others. Through the several ‘visits’ that Gil makes to the past, he is able to get more inspiration in his writing. His nostalgia also intensifies as he also gets attached to the past that he sees as the golden age.
Woody Allen’s fantasy comedy about one man’s search for the promise of a better past is an exercise on unabashed enchantment. He directs it with grace, executing each scene with an assuring confidence and underlying excitement as Gil Pender’s travel to the past becomes a character journey for the audience as well. Its intelligence lies in the concise build-up of carefully crafted humor, providing not simply a hilarious film, but also built on a charming and captivating atmosphere.
It also helps that the script, penned by Allen himself, provides an undeniable mixture of charm and wit that makes the film really a delight to watch. He glides into each scene with a smooth transition from charming to funny to romantic with the simplicity and honesty of the lines. The way the character of Gil Pender finds his way into the past while joining enchantment and awkwardness makes up for a really fascinating study of a character who sees his displacement as a way to escape from the undesirable truths of the present.
The cinematography provides a glorious look at the past, showing picturesque and utterly gorgeous shots that evoke the glory of the past, whether be it the real past or simply nostalgia. Meticulous production design and costume design fill the scenes with beauty and fascination. Graciously edited with perfect rhythm, the film feels like a breeze that is both relaxing and thrilling to watch. The film also possesses brilliantly selected music pieces that anchor the over-all romantic feel of the film.
However, it is the cast that definitely brings life to the story. Owen Wilson anchors the story with charismatic with and believable amazement. Surrounding him is a strong cast of actors that populate this magical story. Marion Cotillard is vividly mysterious and alluring as Gil Pender’s muse. Corey Stoll is particularly remarkable as the straightforward Ernest Hemingway. Other noteworthy actors include Adrien Brody as the rhinoceros-stunned painter, Kathy Bates as the assertive Gertrude Stein, Rachel McAdams as the rational yet irritable Inez, Michael Sheen as the arrogant intellectual Paul, Tom Hiddleston as the suave writer Scott Fitzgerald, Allison Pill as the happy-go-lucky Zelda Fitzgerald, among other.
I ask myself after watching the film: yes, I have enjoyed every minute of it, no doubt. It was a delight to my senses, I was mesmerized by the visuals, the intelligent humor worked for me, I appreciated its smooth narrative flow. But what was the big deal after all? For me, it was how absorbing the experience was. Time just flew by, and watching it was something that feels like a precious time. The charming start of the film immediately got my fascination, and the ending just left me with a smile.
I loved every moment of it.
For this, the film gets: