I am not a fan of Woody Allen, never have been, but I have to admit this film is positively delightful. As a writer and author, this film was like a daydream to me. I mean, what current-day author wouldn’t like to hitch a ride back to Paris in the 1920s and party with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and converse with the great Gertrude Stein? Magic. Complete magic.
The story takes place in Paris and centers around Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), a successful Hollywood screenwriter who dreams of finishing his first novel about a man with a nostalgia shop in Paris. Midnight in Paris opens with some beautiful shots of Paris where Gil is vacationing with his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her rich, right-wing, conservative parents.
Inez, in one word, is a bitch (excuse my French) and is forever berating Gil when she’s not running off with her overly pretentious friends. Why he is engaged to this pernicious twit is beyond me. The reason is obviously unknown to him, too, which probably explains why he wanders the streets of Paris alone.
One night, while walking the streets of Paris, Gil gets lost on a side street and takes refuge on a church’s steps. While contemplating his dilemma, bells chime the midnight hour. Just then, an antique Peugot arrives filled with boisterous partygoers dressed in vintage clothing, and they coax him to join them in their revelry. They arrive at a party where he sees an unknown Cole Porter playing piano and meets F. Scott Fitzgerald and his zany wife. Zelda. F. Scott then introduces Gil to Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll). Gil is ecstatic and can’t believe that he has somehow time-traveled to the ’20s and is hanging out with his literary heroes who seem to really like him. He is even more enthralled when Hemingway introduces him to the great Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) who agrees to critique Gil’s novel. But the magic disappears and Gil is thrust back into 2010 as soon as he leaves Ms. Stein’s home to return to the hotel to collect his manuscript. But that doesn’t deter Gil. He returns to the same side street the next night at midnight in anticipation of being whisked back into the jazzy, ragtime 1920s.
Gil ends up sharing drinks and conversations with Picasso, Salvador Dali (played by the magnificent Adrien Brody), T.S. Eliot and Luis Buñuel. Gil is attracted to Picasso’s mistress, Adriana, but sadly, Adriana does not share his love of the 1920s. After several encounters with her, Gil returns to the present with a new awareness of who he is as a person and what he wants in life.
“Midnight in Paris” was the perfect film for this hopeless and hopeful romantic. The fantastical premise of the story isn’t remotely plausible, but that isn’t the point. Allen doesn’t even try to explain it, but he doesn’t need to and we don’t care. We are easily swept along in his story, and we fall in love with all of Allen’s characters, even the neurotic ones. Owen Wilson makes this film. He is lovable and I found myself cheering him on in his search to find a kindred spirit who loves him as well as walks in the Paris rain. Corey Stoll is superb as Hemingway and Kathy Bates is timeless and a perfect addition to this film’s cast.
Woody Allen fans will love this film as will those who are looking for a wonderfully light, romantic film. Bravo to Mr. Allen. If he continues making films of this caliber and finesse, he may have just recruited a new fan.