Directed and written by none other than the man described as ‘a treasure of the cinema’, Midnight in Paris is a romantic comedy that explores the themes of nostalgia and modernism. Premiering at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the movie follows soon-to-be-married Gil Pender as he becomes engulfed in the history, romance, magic and appeal of Paris, which consequently forces him to confront the shortcomings of his relationship. During a press conference for the movie Allen explained ‘I wanted to show the city emotionally’, which was clearly a success, as the emotional Americans that poured out of the screen made it his most successful film at the Box Office in the United States yet. Midnight in Paris also scooped up an Academy Award and Golden Globe.
Despite being so well-received in the States, Midnight in Paris did not make such a dent in the UK. However, this is not because it was unsuccessful, it was simply because there was not much hype around. Well, we can’t really expect a little, aged Woody Allen to bounce around in a cute costume and sing about his new movie (even if we want him to, just a little bit), but it is surprising how small a deal was made out of the creative, emotional and nostalgia-filled movie, especially with the star-studded cast it offers us. We see Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, Marley and Me) as Gil Pender – a creatively unfulfilled Hollywood screenwriter and hopeless romantic. Pender is struggling to write his first novel and is completely hypnotised by Paris, hoping to move there because it offers creative inspiration and is also beautiful in the rain (Preach it, Pender). However, the problem that always exists is in the form of Pender’s fiancee Inez, who is portrayed by Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls, The Notebook). The pair are on vacation in the city with Inez’s wealthy, conservative, and just generally irritating parents who disagree with Gil as a person, and support Inez’s conflicting view that when they are married, she and Gil should live in Malibu. As we are danced through the movie with the romantic melodies of Paris (not literally, unless you like to waltz while watching a movie), we soon find out that it is not just where they should settle down that Gil and Inez disagree on. During a night out, Gil gets drunk and lost alone in the intertwining streets of Paris…which, little does he know, will be the start of a journey that takes him into what can only be described as his dream. Invited into the world of the 1920s by passengers in an old-fashioned car, Gil is taken to a party that he soon finds out to be hosted by Jean Cocteau (a famous French poet, novelist, aritst and filmmaker, to name a few of his talents). This is the first face of many hugely influential people that Gil meets while he is transported into an era that he completely idolises and adores. With the help of literary geniuses such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleson) and Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), among others such as Gertrude Stein and a wonderfully pretty French girl named Adriana (Marion Cotillard, of course), Gil is taken on a journey of wonder, fantasy, nostalgia, knowledge, love and complete realisation, that assists him with untangling the problems not only in his life, but in his head.
We, as viewers, are taken through this journey with Gil, and laugh and gasp with him as he is completely blown away by meeting the most famous people in the modernist era. The sights and sounds of Paris absorb us as they absorb Gil, and make the viewer develop a desire to visit the city of romance and magic in the hope that they, too, would be taken on such a journey (and meet a surprisingly attractive Ernest Hemingway…or Corey Stoll, either way). To those who are not interested in literature or art/are not familiar with the historical characters that essentially make the story, the movie might seem less fulfilling. However, for those who are familiar with such characters and are passionate about their work, the movie becomes exciting and makes you feel like part of an inside, private joke. Allen said about the movie ‘I just wanted it to be the way I saw Paris – Paris through my eyes’ ; Well, we don’t know if it’s your genius mind or those comical, little glasses that you sport Woody, but it is safe to say Paris through the eyes of Woody Allen is something we all hope to see one day.
‘ The past is never dead, it’s not even past. ‘