Repeat series: day eight. This is one of my all-time favorites. I watch the Hemingway bits at least once a month. I’m a little sad at all the errors I found rereading this (I guess I have grown as an editor) and had to fix them before I let it come back up. I also added some clips.
((RATING)) “Midnight in Paris” 4.3-of-5 stars
Woody Allen’s 45th directed film “Midnight in Paris” is aesthetically appealing, whimsical, and hearkens a respect for the past in a world society that perpetually looks to the future.
“Midnight in Paris” (Which was written and directed by Allen) stars Owen Wilson as Gil Bender on vacation with his fiancee Inez, played by Rachel McAdams.
The movie begins with a series of shots of Paris landmarks, some in regular weather and some in rain, synced to change shots along with the upbeat in the score. Like other of Allen’s movies, the first dialog is heard from Gil against the black title credits which progress to reveal Inez and Gil walking through Monet’s Garden in Giverny.
Throughout the early daylight scenes of “Midnight in Paris,” Gil and Inez walk through a series of landmarks. Gil, an American television writer working on his first novel, professes his love of the city of Paris, how the people operate and his desire to live/write there while Inez cannot wait to return stateside.
Gil and Inez are in Paris along with Inez’s parents John, played by Kurt Fuller, and Helen, played by Mimi Kennedy, who are in town on a business venture for John. Along the way Gil and Inez meet up with Inez’s Gil-termed “Pedantic” friend Paul played by Michael Sheen and Carol played by Nina Arianda.
Paul invites Gil and Inez along with he and Carol to tour Rodin’s museum where Paul proceeds to give a tour to an attentive Inez and Carol, and an unwilling Gil.
There is a shot in front of Rodin’s museum where the two women follow Paul with a rapt focus while Gil follows as if he becomes more uninterested and annoyed at Paul with each step he takes. It’s in a scene like this where Wilson shines playing the Allen Surrogate role of Gil. While Wilson may not appear as cynical or sharp as Allen would in the role, there is a believable mocking quality to the way Wilson plays the character.
After a day of listening to Paul bemoan about the history of Paris and the various works of art that contribute to the city’s prestige, Gil excuses himself to walk around the city. Eventually Gil finds himself lost on the streets of Paris, and sits on a city street stairway in the Latin Quarter. As the clock strikes midnight a Duisenberg strolls up to where he is sitting and the inhabitants of the car invite him to come along.
After Gil gets out of the car, he finds himself in the 1920’s France world of Cole Porter (played by Yves Heck) music, late-night parties and stimulating conversation. Eventually, he finds himself talking to Zelda (played by Alison Pill) and Scott Fitzgerald (played by Tom Hiddleston) and joining them in escaping the boring party in which they go to a bar where they meet up with Ernest Hemingway (played by Corey Stroll).
Throughout the process Gil is entranced by each author or artist he meets. After asking Hemingway to read his novel-in-progress, Hemingway declines but promises to bring him to the only person he trusts with his work, Gertrude Stein (played by Kathy Bates).
During the next day Gil tells Inez about his night and she devalues everything he says. Throughout the day the growing disconnect between Gil and Inez becomes more obvious as they argue over where they should live after getting married.
The next night Hemmingway takes Gil to Stein where he is thrust into an argument between her and Pablo Picasso about a painting. The painting was a portrait of a woman, Adriana (played by Marion Cotillard), whom Picasso had been seeing. Gil talks with Adriana in the next room and they bond over a common bond, a love of the past.
There are many great performances in “Midnight in Paris,” the most notable being any with Hemingway. Stroll plays an engaging Hemingway who rivets all he talks to with poignant words and elegant phrases. Throughout the movie Hemingway delivers bits like “All Cowardice comes from not loving,” and “You will never write well if you fear dying.” But the best bit of Hemingway in this movie is a conversation between him and Adriana at a party thrown by the Fitzgerald’s.
Hemingway says to Adriana, “Have you ever shot a charging lion?” Adriana responds no and Hemingway responds with “would you like to?”
Bates is also brilliant as the poetess Stein. She is forceful and abrupt which allows her to motivate Wilson in his writing career.
Cotillard is, as Wilson describes, “Effortlessly Lovely.” The chemistry between Adriana and Gil is enchanting and propels the movie forward.
Lastly, McAdams is abrasive as Inez which is most likely the point of her character. She constantly puts down Gil which makes her character hard to care about.
The movie has been proclaimed in many critics reviews as a love note to Paris. While each image on screen is beautiful and filmed with the perfect amounts of light, weather and blocking, the content of the movie seems to be more focused on Allen’s post famous career.
Wilson plays a writer trying to find a living where he isn’t a corporate hand making things that are moronic and simplistic. He hates the fact he spends his life ridiculed by pedantic people who have no clue what they are talking about and indoctrinate the naively willing.
What Allen is beckoning for through a love letter to Paris is a return to writing or self-expression before the corporate takeover of the arts realm. In the words of Inez in an early scene, “Midnight in Paris” Is Allen willfully stating that he would give it all up just to struggle.