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The Road to the Oscars: Midnight in Paris (2011)

I didn’t know much about Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris aside from it was directed by Allen and it involved Owen Wilson in Paris.  Sitting in the theater and watching the film I completely fell in the love with the story of a writer who travels back to 1920s Paris at midnight.  I’m an English major so I’m well-versed in the world of Paris during the 20s, the Lost Generation and all that (I’ve written a ton of papers on them so I should know them well-enough by now).  So for a geek this movie was perfect, aside from that it’s a got a sweet story, a love of nostalgia (which seems to be the theme of this years Best Picture nominees) and some amazing cameos.

Gil Pender (Wilson) is a put-upon writer who just wants to enjoy the streets of Paris while on vacation.  Unfortunately, his irate fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) doesn’t see things his way.  Suffering from writers block Gil walks the streets of the city at midnight and comes upon a 1920s car with a cadre of people beckoning him to join them.  Gil realizes he’s been transported to Paris in the 1920s and he gets to meet the famed writers, painters, and other personalities of the time.  Finding an outlet for his writer’s block Gil starts to learn more about himself, and also starts to fall for a beautiful woman named Adriana (Marion Cotillard).

The main reason I’m in love with this movie is the setting and the story.  Allen shoots Paris as a loving travelogue with all the must-see spots highlighted.  Gil himself goes on about wanting to walk the streets of Paris in the rain and Allen makes that look magical.  If anything I watched this movie and immediately priced how much it would be to get me to Paris (unfortunately way too expensive).  The other element of this movie I loved is the cameos and the authenticity to Paris in the 1920s.  The 20s are coming back in a big way, between this and The Artist, and the attention to detail was exquisite.  The costumes are beautiful, the cars, the nightclubs, you truly feel as if you’re there.

With that said the cameos are hilarious and the actors playing them are perfect.  Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston are fabulous as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I desperately wish that someone would make a biopic about this doomed couple with Pill and Hiddleston in the roles because they were exactly who I pictured.  Pill plays Zelda with a vulnerability, a madness, and a wild streak that comes together in waves of frustration.  One minute she’s laughing with Scott and then immediately accuses him of wanting to leave her before trying to throw herself in the Seine.  Hiddleston is also dapper and up-standing as F. Scott.  The true scene-stealer though is Cory Stoll as Ernest Hemingway.  I know a lot about Hemingway and Allen and company put Hemingway right in front of the audience.  The short, clipped sentences, the love of hunting, the need to hit on every woman he meets, Stoll is up to the challenge and makes Hemingway a magnetic presence for the few scenes he’s in.

The love story between Gil and Adriana is sweet and doomed from the start, in a comedic way mind you.  Both characters long for a time gone by and find their present time boring.  They’ll never be together because they’ll constantly long for something else, whether it’s a new time or a new person.  Gil himself is a personification of Allen although not as grating or annoying as previous Allen characters.  The worst character has to be McAdams as Gil’s fiancée Inez.  Every word out of her mouth drips with disdain, she’s the worst kind of stereotypical American/tourist/female in film and at a certain point you just wish Gil would stop being such a dope and slap her (and I’m generally against assaulting female characters in film).  I don’t know what Allen was trying to say with the character but she’s far more of a bitch than needed.

Midnight in Paris was on my Top 10 Best of the Year and I still love it.  It speaks to the literature geek in me as well as the person who enjoys exotic locales and times gone by.  Personally, my golden age is the 1930s (for film, it’s the 1960s if we’re going music) but there’s just something about Paris in the 20s.

Grade: A

PS. Hope everyone likes the new custom made header for the site.  There’s also a fresh new logo on the Facebook page that doesn’t look like a Microsoft Word Paint job

Kristen Lopez View All

A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.

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