Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Movie Review: Midnight In Paris

Rating: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

Written and Directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates

The Gist: Screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson) travels to Paris with his soon-to-be Fiance (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. While there, Gil begins to take nighttime strolls by himself. Each night at midnight,  Gil is transported back to the 1920s where he meets F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, among others. Not only does Gil long to spend time with and converse with these individuals, but he also seeks advise on writing his first novel.

The Review: I am a huge Woody Allen fan, but I can admit that his films in the 90s and 2000s have been mostly underwhelming - though there have been a few that I really enjoyed (Match Point, Whatever Works, and Manhattan Murder Mystery for instance).  Midnight In Paris might be his best since Match Point, though I could probably go back further to Crimes and Misdemeanors. When Jeff (my brother) told me about the plot a few weeks back, I was really excited to see it because the concept reminded me of the kind of storytelling Woody did with his short stories.  I own a copy of The Insanity Defense and I've read most of the stories multiple times. They're all highly hilarious and creative. I definitely view the storytelling in Midnight In Paris much in the same light. It's an idea I wish I had, but obviously it's best left up to someone of Woody Allen's ilk.

I liked Owen Wilson's handling of the "Woody Allen" character. Owen's definitely a guy with a lot of charm and it's hard not to like him. For that reason, I think he makes the character more accessible. I do have to say that with Rachel McAdams and Michael Sheen I wasn't as impressed. Neither does a poor job in the film, I think I just prefer them to play likable characters. I extend that criticism of Michael Sheen to 30 Rock as well; I was just never a fan of the Liz Lemon/Wesley relationship. I really like Rachel McAdams because I feel that she's usually great in films and I'm also attracted to her. But again, and I know the audience isn't supposed to like her, I wasn't crazy about her and didn't like her for the wrong reason. And I don't mean that criticism to be directed at the archetype that those two are playing. I love Woody's pseudo-intellectual characters and the way that the "Woody" character interacts with him. Alan Alda was far and away the best interpretation of the pseudo-intellectual.

Anyway, the script is great, though, there really aren't as many jokes in the film as you would think. This isn't a script like that of Whatever Works or his 70s comedies. The jokes that are in the script are very humorous and I can't think of any that I didn't enjoy (I am a sucker for Republican/Tea Party bashing). I would say that this film is more of a tribute than a comedy. It's a tribute to Paris (first and foremost). What a beautiful city! I've always wanted to visit and now the desire has increased (though I understand that Allen is deliberately romanticizing the city). The film is also a tribute to Woody's various muses: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Bunuel, Eliot, Matisse, etc. Like Woody, I revere these people as well. The script and subject matter are very personal to Woody and it shows.

I would love to talk to an expert on Hemingway or Fitzgerald about the film - though I probably wouldn't care too much what they would have to say, but I do wonder about Woody's interpretations of such people. But that's all they really are - interpretations and caricatures, as intended. But I love the character of Hemingway in the film (though, I admit, I'm not really a fan of his work). I really like what Corey Stoll does with the character; he's tough, confident, and passionate. He knows who he is and you get the sense that that's how one would need to behave in order to be considered a great writer.

The subject of writing in the film is also something that is near and dear to my heart. I've attempted to write novels at various times in my life, and I have completed two full-length screenplays. I can sympathize with Gil's thoughts, emotions, and ambitions. I also love the "Golden Age" theme and the concept of nostalgia. I think we all, at one point or another, long to spend time in a previous decade. The one we live in is never fulfilling enough. And I do agree with the film, the Golden Age always seems to rest with an earlier generation, no matter which time period you're in. But it also speaks to the fact that we often don't know what we have in the present.

Having said that, nothing written today will probably stack up to the works of Hemingway or Faulkner. During their time, there were less novelists  and less books being published than that of today. Which is probably best - I feel like there are too many published authors and too many bands out there making music. Much of it is garbage. But who knows, maybe there were plenty of writers in the 1920s who were brilliant and never got a shot at being published. I'm sure that's probably true, but perhaps not. Either way, I just wanted to write something on this topic. I'm not exactly sure that feel this way 100% of the time.

Lastly I just want to say that while I was watching this in the theater with Jeff, two moronic girls were sitting near us and were talking to each other the entire time (yep, talking, not whispering). Luckily I didn't hear most of it because I was further away from them than Jeff, but he relayed some of what they said to me. It was the most inane shit I've ever heard. I'm glad they spent money on a Woody Allen film and all, but good god, I have no idea what they were doing in there. Not to mention the fact that they were incredibly rude. I hate those whom treat the movie theater like their living room. Sorry, I had to get that out.

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