Wednesday, February 5, 2014

41. Midnight in Paris (2011)

Code-name: Nostalgia

Writer/Director: Woody Allen
Type: Fantasy, Drama, Romance

Gil Pender- Owen Wilson
Inez- Rachel McAdams
Inez's mother, Helen- Mimi Kenndedy
Inez's father, John- Kurt Fuller
Paul- Michael Sheen
Carol- Nina Arianda
Tour Guide- Carla Bruni
Gabrielle- Lea Seydoux
Adriana- Marion Cotillard
[Immortal Greats of the Arts]
Zelda Fitzgerald-Alison Pill
F. Scott Fitzgerald- Tom Hiddleston
Cole Porter- Yves Heck
Ernest Hemingway- Corey Stoll
Gertude Stein- Kathy Bates
Pablo Picasso- Marcial Di Fonzo Bo
T.S. Eliot- David Lowe
Salvador Dali- Adrien Brody
Henri Matisse- Yves-Antoine Spoto
Toulouse Lautrec- Vincent Menjou Cortes
Degas- François Rostain
Gauguin- Olivier Rabourdin

Awards & Nominations:
OSCAR- Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen)
nomination- OSCAR- Best Picture
nomination- OSCAR- Best Director (Woody Allen)
nomination- OSCAR- Best Art Direction
Golden Globe- Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen)
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Actor (Comedy/Musical)- Owen Wilson
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Picture (Comedy/Musical)
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Director (Woody Allen)
AFI- Best Film of the Year
Grammy- Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media


[On a Whim...]

As a general rule, I usually don't like to buy movies without seeing them first. But in the rare occasion that I do, it works out pretty well. The one thing it didn't... well, I'm willing to give "The Big Lebowski" another shot. It just wasn't at all what I expected. I'll never make that mistake with Coen Brothers films again.(While on the subject, I loved "Burned After Reading" and really enjoyed "Fargo").

I've heard of "Midnight in Paris," but only who was in it and it was already up for several Golden Globes. I had trouble imagining Owen Wilson as a serious contender for Best Actor.
I remember watching the awards show and seeing it win Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen wasn't present to accept).

Then the following night I had the most unusual dream that made me take the gamble of buying it... On a good night, I'm a vivid dreamer and often times, celebrities star in them with or without me.
The dream was as follows: I was in a relationship with Rachel McAdams and I had serious thoughts about cheating on her with Owen Wilson, who I happened to be good friends with and was venting to about the current lull in said relationship.
I'd go further, but the entry as a whole would do better if I kept my mental dialogue out of it. For the record, I am straight :-P but I don't mind divulging when I have a girl crush.

So yeah, probably the strangest reason to pick up a movie... and this worked out better than I could have imagined. To me, "Midnight in Paris" was one of those "life-changing" movies because I was a different person after seeing it.


Before I get too ahead of myself, here's the plot in a nutshell:

Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is a former Hollywood screenwriter struggling with his first novel. He's vacationing in Paris, his favorite city in the world, with his fiancĂ© Inez and her parents. While returning home from a wine tasting, he stumbles upon an old Peugeot, which transports him into 1920's Paris... which happens to be teeming with his personal heroes of art and literature.

[Old Friends and New Friends]
Spoilers Start Sprinkling in from this point on...

As if picking up where they left off in "Wedding Crashers" (just change the names and add in new people), Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams play an engaged couple vacationing in Paris with her parents. Except the movie becomes less about them as a couple and more about Gil (Owen Wilson) finding himself as a writer alongside his personal heroes.

Up to this point, the only Woody Allen movie I ever saw was "Antz." Yeah, I know, it's animated and he didn't write/direct it, so it really shouldn't count. But as I got lost in the fantasy of this movie and the depth of its dialogue, I instantly became a fan.

2010 had quite a few movies I enjoyed because their scripts were fresh and different. Often times, they were comedic in nature and made jokes out of things people think but often won't say aloud. Having said that, "Midnight in Paris" stood out to me because it was probably the cleverest writing I'd seen in a movie. I related so much to Gil Pender as a fellow writer and in that he's such a dreamer. To be real, nobody outside of movies talks the way he does, but the way he explained things... it's hard to describe, exactly, but I agreed with his way of thinking. Other characters too. They often address commonplace things and editorialize what they see. The dialogue has a lot of depth and more than enough room to breathe so you can take it in at your own pace.
I wanna say it's a writer/director thing, but it might just be a Woody Allen thing. This movie convinced me to give "Annie Hall" a shot (which I enjoyed quite a bit), but I need to see more of his work to be absolutely sure.

As much as I liked Rachel McAdams's look in this movie, I liked her character less and less as the movie went on. It's so strange how the two seem so in love at the beginning, but over time, you start to wonder why they're even together because their ideals are so different. Gil's a dreamer, but Inez and her family are wealthy realists. There's a conversation in the beginning where he and her father (Kurt Fuller, who I know as Woody the M.E. in "Psych") butt heads. Gil is absolutely in love with Paris and his would-be father-in-law looks down on it. He says how much he hates their politics because they never pledged their support to America. Gil backs them up, saying they probably didn't want to follow us "down that rabbit hole" in Iraq...

So he gets the impression (from this as well a comment he made about the Tea Party) that Gil is a communist because he doesn't agree with him.
Again, I don't want to get off topic, but that closed-minded-ness just annoyed the hell out of me.

Even more annoying was the character of Paul. (I'd only seen him previously as Aro of The Volturi in the "Twilight" films). When they weren't spending time with her parents, Gil gets dragged into spending time with Inez's college friend, Paul and his wife, Carol. They'd spend time in certain artistic areas of the city and Paul would give them tours as if he knew EVERYTHING. Like he's an expert in fine art, wine and so many other things and Inez eats it up as if he's Jesus Christ.
As it turns out, there is a word for someone like him, which shows up in the book Gil is writing about the man working in the nostalgia shop.
Pedantic: (adj) someone who makes a show of knowledge

Two scenes I find particular infuriating involving him:
  • he argues with an actual tour guide (played by the actual wife of France's then-President, Nicolas Sarkozy) over who inspired Rodin
  • they're in an art museum and happen to stumble across the Picasso painting Gil saw the night before at Gertude Stein's... he tries to explain the truth, but Inez thinks he's high. Earlier in this scene, she also tells him to shut up, adding "you might learn something," as if Paul's word is always true and Gil's wrong even when he isn't.
Could it be more obviously that Rachel McAdams and Michael Sheen were dating at the time?

Out of the actors who play the historic figures, Adrien Brody (an oddly hilarious Salavador Dali who seems to be obsessed with rhinoceroses), Kathy Bates (a very helpful Gertude Stein) and Zelda (Alison Pill, who I briefly mentioned in "Scott Pilgrim") and Scott Fitzgerald (Loki himself, Tom HIddleston) were the only ones I recognized.
Then there was Marion Cotlillard who played fellow dreamer and artist groupie Adriana, who I'd only previously seen in "Inception," but this would become the role I'd forever associate with her. Not just because I love her in flapper fashion, but I loved the relationship between her and Gil. How they have so much in common, how she almost proved to be more compatible with him than Inez. You're just drawn to her immediately.

All of the renderings were on point. You truly believed that they were these historical figures. How F. Scott Fitzgerald used the term "Old Sport" as his character Gatsby did regularly. How Dali and the other surrealists were so out there in the matter of speaking. Probably the most convincing was the dude who played Hemingway. He was SO hard-core and intense. I thought Corey Stoll deserved a little awards recognition for this portrayal.

[Golden Age Syndrome]

My code-name for this movie was "nostalgia" for a number of reasons.
Gil's protagonist is a man that works in a nostalgia shop, which sells memorabilia and such. He wishes he lived in 1920's Paris because it was a time period that inspired many of his heroes and he'd like to have that experience as well. 

Then there's a side-plot later on where he and Adriana stumble across a horse-drawn carriage that takes them to Paris in the 1890's, a time she wishes she could disappear into. There, they meet artists Degas and Gauguin who long to be in the Renaissance. This more or less puts an end to Gil's romance with Adriana because he realizes he'd only been escaping into the 20's to run away from things in his own life.

In a way, I can relate to this phenomenon as well. I'm particularly nostalgic for the pop culture of the 80's. I was born in 1986, so I'm really fascinated with this decade. Some of my favorite movies and some of the best music comes from the 80's.
After seeing this movie, would I still take the chance of visiting the decade? Absolutely. But I never want to get to the point where I get tired of it.


Aside from a couple of actors, I got a lot of other things out of this movie. Paris was shown in such a gorgeous way that I have even more reasons to want to go visit. The way the film is shot, how Gil and some of the other character speak so lovingly about the city... it's breathtaking. It brings out the romantic in you, but here they show it in ways you don't quite expect.

Before the film, I'd read Fitzgerald and Hemingway and knew of Dali and Picasso. Afterwards, I became acquainted with Gertude Stein, Matisse, Degas and Gauguin... I want to get to know their works... if only to be better prepared for the category in Jeopardy 8-) and I'm always up for getting more culture in the arts. Open my mind to new and different experiences, kinda the way I did in Chinese culture when we covered the different religions and art forms.

...ironically, I'm posting this on Michael Sheen's 45th birthday. Except for Aro, it seems like every other role I see him in, I just want to punch him in the face :-P he never seems to play any likable characters

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Good review Jackie. This finally has us see Woody Allen what he can do when he has an idea, and just runs wild with it, no matter how illogical it may be. That just shows us his charm and wit never runs dry.