Movie Review Monday: Midnight in Paris

Mike Finkelstein was looking for a little artistic inspiration last night, and decided to walk around New York City.  The clock struck twelve, and being a little tipsy, he got into a random car with some nice looking fellows.  Luckily, he was able to find his way back from Harlem the next morning (Ella and Louie say hi), and write this review for “Midnight in Paris.”

PLOT: A frustrated screenwriter (Owen Wilson) vacationing in Paris with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her parents begins to fall in love with the city and all its history.  When he decides to take a walk at midnight to avoid some pompous friends (Michael Sheen and Nia Arianda), he ends up discovering the Golden Age of Paris, and more inspiration than he ever could have imagined.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: If you don’t know anything else about MIDNIGHT IN PARIS besides the above plot paragraph, DO NOT LEARN ANYTHING ELSE UNTIL YOU SEE IT!  There is a reason that the trailer is one of the few in recent years that doesn’t give anything away.  Do not talk about it, do not ask questions, and just get to your nearest theater.  And please excuse the fact that this will probably be a very short review, because I will be doing my best to critique without slipping out any details.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is an absolute gem of a film.  Woody Allen has professed his love first to New York, and then to England.  Now, he switches over to Paris, doing a beautiful job painting the city as a land of magic and wonder.  We see the calmness in it.  We have the serenity.  And yet, at the same time, we see the fun side—the partying and the drinking and the art and the music.

But while MIDNIGHT IN PARIS has the city as a beautiful backdrop, its message is much deeper.   Something as simple as Owen Wilson taking walks through Paris’ streets at 12 turns into an entire message about the “Golden Ages” in people’s lives.  What do you consider to be your perfect time?  Who are your heroes…the people you’d give your left foot for just five minutes with?  For every person that you can’t wait to meet, there is someone else who thinks of them as just a friend.  For every time or event you wish you had experienced, there is someone else who thinks of it as just another day.  It is the ultimate message of “The Grass is Greener”, giving the viewer the comfort of knowing that no matter how out of place or lost you feel, life is whatever YOU make of it, and you’ll find your way.

Owen Wilson does a fantastic job in the lead role as Gil.  He embodies Allen’s quick talking, naïve and innocent leading man, and even pumps in a little more charm than Woody usually shells out.  Wilson seems to be trying to break out of the dumb comedy route lately, with some more inspired roles in MARLEY AND ME, THE DARJEELING LIMITED, and HOW DO YOU KNOW, and here, while he may not be venturing far, he shows he can handle a smarter, more sophisticated comedy with some magic.

Rachel McAdams also does what she’s there to do as Wilson’s fiancé, but I have to say that among the family and friends, Michael Sheen stood out above the rest.  The English accent is gone and all that remains is the know-it-all pompous Paul.  Within the first five minutes of meeting him, you just want to slap him and light his shoes on fire (yeah, I went that far…).

And then, there are the inhabitants of The City of Light.  I can’t go into detail without giving too much away, but let’s just say that every person there, no matter how large or small, has a scene stealing moment.  Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard, Marcial Di Fonzo Bo, Tom Hiddleston, Corey Stall, Adrien Brody, and Alison Pill, among many others, all add to this wonderful fantasy.  They show the extremes and the allure of culture in its different lights, no matter how strange or crazy it may be.

Woody Allen is one of the most iconic directors of our time.  Over the past two decades, he’s been on and off, but with MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, he is back on.  In a time where every film coming out is a billion dollar blockbuster or comic book movie, it is refreshing to have something so simple with a damn good storyline and message.  If I had any advice, I would say if you go into the movie with a little information about your turn-of-the-century artists…Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Man Ray, Dali, T.S.Eliot and Gertrude Stein (to name a few), it’ll help you enjoy the film and its references so much more.  Again, I’m trying to stay hush, hush, but no matter what you already know, you’ll agree that MIDNIGHT IN PARIS was original, fun, and effortless.  After seeing it, I just want to take a stroll through the Illuminated City, because just like they say in the trailer, “Paris, at Midnight, is Magic.”

GRADE: A

Mike’s LIKES:

1) OWEN WILSON: Owen Wilson could have a one-note shtick, but it works beautifully here.  The man plays Woody’s role beautifully with a nice amount of confidence, but still gentle wonder.

2) PARIS AT MIDNIGHT: “Paris at Midnight is Magic.” That’s the title card in the trailer.  It’s right.  Allen makes Paris looks gorgeous and elegant in so many ways, and now I want to live there.

3) “THE DETECTIVE IS MISSING”: Great, funny cap to the rest of the story.  That’s all I’ll say

4) THE GOLDEN AGE: The message of the film, concerning every generation’s views on where they are, where the rest have been, and where we all will be.  Beautiful and reflective.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) SLOW BEGINNING: I had to think of some dislike!  The opening shots of Paris were long.  Get into the movie!  Yeah…that’s all I could think of…

2) FAMOUS WRITERS/ARTISTS FROM THE TURN OF THE CENTURY: This isn’t really a dislike, but more of a note for the audience.  Before going into the movie, take a few minutes at work to research some turn of the century artists…Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Man Ray, Dali, T.S.Eliot and Gertrude Stein (to name a few).  It’ll help you enjoy the film so much more with a little knowledge on them.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Woody Allen attempted to shoot the film in Paris in 2006, but it was too expensive at the time.

2) The opening film of the 64th Cannes Film Festival (it’s World Premiere).

 

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