There can’t be too many people out there that don’t picture what it would be like to have a conversation with someone they’ve idolized just to pick their brain about the same passions you both share. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS presents a scenario not unlike that very notion but also is an exploration of passion in general and the search for inspiration and creativity. Woody Allen’s film has enough charm and interesting things to say to make it watchable and at times it’s even fantastic but ultimately the slower moments and some iffy characters didn’t have me falling head over heels.
Owen Wilson stars as Gil, a movie writer who also has a book in the works and is engaged to Inez (Rachel McAdams). Gil has a romantic and classic interest in the time period of the 1920’s and is fascinated with the city of Paris especially in the rain. Gil’s fiancée Inez to say the least does not share any of these sentiments. For much of their trip in Paris she becomes more and more disconnected with Gil especially after he goes off for a midnight stroll each night and finds himself thrust in the past and able to talk to historical icons and get their insights on his book as well as life and love.
I would equate MIDNIGHT IN PARIS to that of a fine wine- not everyone has the taste for it, it carries varying qualities and sometimes even the biggest wine snob can settle for something a little cheaper. Not to make myself sound to bitter about the movie because I’m not, I just feel that at times while the movie is enjoyable and sweet it just seems to be a little too indulgent. The film took its time getting my interest and finally after the opening into the heart I was charmed and loving it then it tapers off once again towards the end. To throw another drinking reference to pair with the wine comparison it’s like building a buzz, gradually feeling very tipsy and then feeling the hangover coming before it actually sets in.
Before it seems like I’m falling on the negative side of the fence let me clarify that I may not be as in love with the film, I did enjoy most of it. The redeeming aspect for me is the times Wilson goes on his midnight strolls to go back to the time he loves and communicate with his idols. Watching and listening to the many conversations he has especially with Corey Stoll who plays Ernest Hemingway I often got lost in the honest and deep words coming from his mouth but also the almost rude and candid tone he takes at times. On the romantic side Rachel McAdams is very attractive but just a very sour character here- on the flip side Marion Cotillard is just fantastic and beautiful.
The performances are great even the bewildered almost childlike amazement from Owen Wilson was better than I anticipated- so no complaints there. They are all very classical and light hearted in tone so there aren’t a whole lot of dramatic chops on display except maybe from Cotillard at times. Everyone plays things on a rich snob level to comedic effect to just winking historical nods. Corey Stoll was the highlight for me- I was thoroughly engaged every time he spoke and hung on every word till he stopped.
The writing could also be the star as the film since many of the characters have very crisp and interesting dialogue, except I feel like towards the end it loses its edge and interest so just tries to squeeze too much when the juice has been dried out. The scenery is gorgeous as well but then again it is Paris after all. Combined they create a very beautiful and romantic tone which carries through to the end, but the greatness of the middle sections seems to die down the closer to the end I got.
I believe that MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is a film for people that love more introspective and thought provoking ideals of creativity, love and life itself and how each of those relates to the other. It’s a romantic comedy for people who hate romantic comedies. Woody Allen’s film builds to very intriguing halfway point but somewhere during the finale my interest snuck in and out leaving me more with the sense of having a mild crush on the film that at some point will fade rather than a deep passion or love for it overall. In the end MIDNIGHT IN PARIS walks the walk and talks the talk for people with romantic ideals but essentially is just as clumsy as the rest of us- and there’s nothing wrong with that.