REVIEW: Midnight in Paris (2011)

Sony Pictures Classic – Theatrical Release Poster – Midnight in Paris

The following is a review of ‘Midnight in Paris’, a Woody Allen film.

Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris was one of the best films of 2011, and the first of two location-pieces from Allen in succession – with the second one being From Rome With Love in 2012. Today we take a look back at what probably should have won the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 84th ceremony – the modern classic – Midnight in Paris.

Midnight in Paris follows writer Gil Pender (played by Owen Wilson) who is looking for inspiration and advice on his first novel, a nostalgia-driven story. Pender is visiting Paris with his fiancée, Inez (played by Rachel McAdams), and the in-laws, but while his fiancée wants to return to Malibu, and for Pender to return to screenwriting, Pender feels that an extended or permanent stay in France may help him evolve and grow as a writer.

As they all meet up to have a quick bite to eat, they cross paths with the Bates couple, Carol (played by Nina Arianda) and Paul (played by Michael Sheen), the latter of which Inez has a crush on still. Pender does not get along with the Bates couple, while his wife is clearly enchanted by Paul’s knowledge.

This is where we get into spoiler-territory, as Pender, at midnight, become rather drunk and takes a ride in an old fashioned Peugeot, and later, at a party, he finds out that the midnight Paris Peugeot has taken him back in time to the roaring twenties, wherein he meets every idol he’s ever had.

Midnight in Paris is about, what Paul Bates calls, golden age-thinking – the idea that the ‘good old days’ were the golden age, and the present pales in comparison. That retro-infatuation that our culture is soaked in. Nothing is ever good enough, unless you learn to relax in the present and with your current peers.

But it is also, to an extent, about how you have to believe in yourself to make it work – that a defeatist attitude will lead you nowhere. The advice that Pender gets from Ernest (played by Corey Stoll) or Gertrude (played by Kathy Bates) is invaluable for his work, and Pender learns to accept his present as well as his talent, which, you presume, is not insignificant.

Still, Woody Allen does add a lot of love for the roaring twenties and the lost generation of writers and artists – there’s a sense of wonder then that you don’t get in the present-day France shown in the film. With that having been said, Woody Allen also manages to make you fall completely in love with Paris. Allen perfectly balances intrigue, wonder, and beauty in this film.

There are some great performances in this film, and while Owen Wilson does a good job as Gil Pender, his is not nearly the strongest performance in the film. For quite a while the film rests on the shoulders of Tom Hiddleston and Corey Stoll, and they are perfect. Corey Stoll absolutely works as Ernest Hemingway, managing to add a lot of humor to his persona, while still keeping his soliloquy-like lines intriguing. We must not forgot Tom Hiddleston’s performance. Hiddleston plays F. Scott Fitzgerald, and, even though it is a small part in the film, Hiddleston manages to steal every scene he is in.

And then there is Marion Cotillard. Owen Wilson is absolutely smitten with Cotillard’s Adriana, and who can blame him? Adriana likes his writing, is like him, in many ways, and he finds her perspective enchanting – just as Inez finds Paul’s knowledge enchanting.

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10Midnight in Paris is a modern classic.

I’m Jeffrey Rex.