Midnight In Paris premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and has since been a global box office success. Written and directed by Woody Allen, the romantic comedy-fantasy explores the theme of nostalgia, reflecting back on the Golden era of the 1920s which leads one man to question whether these illusions of the past are better than the present one he is facing.
Gil (Owen Wilson), a writer struggling to finish his first novel, travels to Paris for a break away from his Hollywood life with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents, John (Kurt Fuller) and Helen (Mimi Kennedy). After arguing with his fiancée one night, Gil begins to roam the streets of Paris when an old-fashioned car pulls up and the passengers inside ask him to join them. Gil finds himself at what seems to be a 1920s themed party, but he soon begins to recognise that the company around him consists of his literary and artistic idols, including that of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Zelda Fitzgerald (Alison Pill), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates). Gil has been transported to the 1920s, an era which he admires and decides to return to at midnight every night in order to find inspiration for his novel, and maybe something a little more from the stunning Adriana (Marion Cotillard).
If you ask anybody with a passion for film, they are likely to tell you that this is Allen’s best film in years. That may be true, but for me there were too many flaws, little aspects that didn’t work or that could have been done better, that downgraded this acclaimed ‘masterpiece’ slightly.
The main problem for me was a lack of effort in the present half of the film. It is obvious that Gil is having trouble in his relationship, but it wasn’t obvious as to why he is so ready to abandon his fiancée in the middle of Paris, go back in time and not explain this to her, and then fall in love with somebody else.
I feel that this was mainly because neither Wilson or McAdams were the right choice for their roles. Both actors have proven that they work well together in 2005’s Wedding Crashers, but neither were strong enough in their roles here. McAdams was playing a character that was supposed to be a genuinely horrible human being. This would have explained why Gil was so willing to escape to a different era every night, but her character did not portray this, which unfortunately weakened her performance and the credibility of the film’s story line.
Wilson, as well, is too comedic for us to take him seriously in his role. Although he played his character quite well, he was too much of a little boy in a sweet shop to reflect the high standard of Allen’s work. I guess anybody would be the same if they were to meet their literary idols, but immaturity was not what was needed here.
It’s only when the film comes to an end, when all is explained a little better and we have come to terms with everything going on, that you can begin to respect the meaning behind it all. Midnight in Paris is a very light-hearted film, but it is with this extraordinary meaning that we are left with, which almost overrides anything else.
Fortunately, it’s only when the film is in the present that the bumps in the road are hit. When Gil enters the past, the magic begins for both Gil and the audience.