By Jonathon Sharp, WCCO
Midnight in Paris is fantastic and delightful. It’s a merry-go-round of humor and admiration and dream that introduces you to the personalities of some of last century’s greatest artists, poets and writers. It’s a good time.
Written and directed by Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris follows Gil (Owen Wilson), a self-professed Hollywood-hack writer with aspirations toward serious literature, and his fiancée on a trip to Paris. However, the couple isn’t alone. Despite Gil’s obvious financial means, they go with his finacee’s parents, who aren’t quite as impressed with Gil as their daughter is. Also, they find it considerably upsetting that Gil continually talks about moving to Paris to pursue literature.
Gil adores the city. To him, Paris was the bastion and citadel of his favorite writers, such as Hemingway, Eliot and Fitzgerald. It was the backdrop before which the events and passions of a Golden Age played. It was (and is) a special city. Unfortunately for Gil, no one shares his particular and ultra-romantic enthusiasm for Paris. Instead, his finacee likes to go shopping with her mother for obscenely expensive furniture and (horror of horrors!) she likes to visit museums with an insufferable know-it-all she crushed on in college. (This know-it-all, played impressively by Michael Sheen, will make you loathe the phrase if I am not mistaken. Trust me.)
Despondent and alone, Gil wanders wine-drunk about the city one night while his fiancee dances with the know-it-all. The clock strikes midnight and then an old-style cab drives up filled with young people drinking champagne. They tell Gil to get into the car, he does and they go to a party from which Gil never recovers.
At this party and the those that follow, Gil meets F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Dali, Bunuel, Ray and girl with whom he falls in love. At first, you think that Gil stumbled across an insanely dedicated group of role players. As the story progresses, however, you and Gil realize that through some sort of Parisian witchcraft Gil found a rift in time and space on a small staircase.
This Disney-like time travel ride changes Gil’s life, as it would anyone who had the chance to live, if only for a few nights, with the people whose books, poems and songs had influenced them. Vicariously through Gil, you also realize the bravado and intensity of Hemingway and the humor and poetry of Dali, played excellently by Adrien Brody. And this quality is what makes the film delightfully human. At this point, I think it’s appropriate to say that Wilson does a great job carrying the film as your cinematic time-travel companion.
For anyone who has read The Sun Also Rises too many times to remember or has a fondness for Un Chien Andalou, this is something you should see. It doesn’t play like an esoteric lesson on art history. Instead, it’s about artists as humans helping a person from the present with his dreams. Moreoever, if you are fond of that period of history, there are plenty of jokes and jabs for you to enjoy.
If you want to hang out with Hemingway (and why wouldn’t you), see Midnight in Paris.