Friday, June 3, 2011

Midnight In Paris

"You're in love with a fantasy."

If there was one movie that would appear on the site "Stuff White People Like," it would probably be Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. This is because the film is brimming with famous Paris sights and historical figures, and everyone in the audience feels special to be able to recognize them (myself and my mother included.) But it's not a bad filmmaking technique: Midnight in Paris is another typically charming romantic comedy from Woody Allen.
To diverge a bit from the topic at hand, while waiting to see Midnight in Paris I had the pleasure of yet again viewing the trailer for Terrence Malick's upcoming film Tree of Life. If the trailer alone can give me goosebumps and almost bring me to tears, I'm kind of scared to see what the whole movie will do to me. But that's out next weekend. So until then we'll focus on the more lighthearted trip through Paris and its history with Owen Wilson.
Wilson plays Gil Pender, a Hollywood script writer turned aspiring novelist. While he is on a trip to France with his fiancée, Ines, he fantasizes about a Parisian life in the 1920s. Later on, he is actually transported to that era, meeting numerous influential musicians, authors, and artists. Through this fantasy, he realizes that he has been unhappy in life not because of the time period in which he lives, but in his outlook and the life decisions he has made.
Wilson is the perfect choice for this role. Every time he meets a new writer or artist like Picasso or Gertrude Stein, his dumbfounded reaction got huge laughs from the audience. The historical figures are almost caricatures of themselves, my personal favorite being Adrian Brody as Salvador Dali (and his obsession with rhinoceroses).
To avoid making this film a whole "time travel" gimmick, there is little attention paid to the logistics of the actual transportation from the present to the 1920s. Unlike other movies where you constantly ask yourself whether the fantastic elements are real or occurring in the head of the protagonist, this question barely crosses your mind in Midnight in Paris. Instead, you are too enamored by the visuals and the characters to really care. And either way, it doesn't really matter to the plot or the themes of the film.
There is a certain universality in this film because almost everyone has had what a character refers to as the "Golden Age Syndrome," or being overly nostalgic and having antipathy towards the present era. Midnight in Paris is a funny and charming film, and it also has a message. However, in the overall scheme of cinema, there is nothing truly unique about it. While it was fun to see famous artists and writers realized on the screen, the film will most likely fade into the background with a lot of Allen's comedies, and is relatively forgettable. But if you're an art history or literature buff, and if you've ever been to Paris, you will probably get a kick out of this movie.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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