Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Midnight in Paris

I can’t say I’m a big Woody Allen fan. I can take him or leave him. Over the past few years, his work has become unbalanced to say the least. But when he’s good, he’s very good. In fact, his career has spanned over two generations. The man has been a filmmaking machine. He’s either written, directed, or stared in 41 feature films.

His latest film, Midnight in Paris, is a return to the type of films that helped make Woody Allen a legend. I consider Midnight in Paris to be one of the best films I’ve seen this year. I’m sure it’s going to make every critic’s top ten list for 2011. It’s billed as a romantic comedy, but it is so much more than that. Midnight in Paris weaves both nostalgic and modernistic themes into the story. It’s a commentary about the way humans think about their current reality as well as a desire to escape to a simpler time.

Midnight in Paris is absolutely delightful. It’s magical in every sense of the word. As the title suggests, the film is set in Paris. The city doesn’t serve just as a location but is a principal character in the film. The first 3 ½ minutes of the movie present a postcard montage of the sights and sounds of what makes Paris so irresistible.

Although this is a romantic comedy, the real romance isn’t between boy meets girl but is more about boy meets city. Owen Wilson plays Gil, a hopeless romantic. Although he is a successful Hollywood screenwriter, his life is lacking something to give it more meaning.

Gil travels to Paris with his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), along with his future in-laws. He hopes to complete his first novel and maybe even convince Inez that Paris is the perfect place to start their new life together. Inez on the other hand has other plans. She sees the perfect life for both of them back home in Malibu.

Gil and Inez are never quite on the same page. Let’s just say that Gil is going to have a chance to discover his inspiration and find his footing in life. In a fun kind of way and never mean spirited, they seem to disagree on everything. I don’t want to spoil the magic that this film offers so I won’t go into the plot any further.

Owen Wilson may seem an odd choice for the part of Gil; however, in one sense, he’s the perfect Wood Allen prototype. Just like most Woody Allen characters, Owen Wilson brings the right combination of sarcasm, wit, insecurity, and neuroticism.

So is Midnight in Paris a redemptive film? Does it have a message? As I said, it does explore some interesting themes. What was the Golden Age? Why do we think that the past was always better? Like some of us, Gil feels he was born in the wrong age. Somehow, he just doesn’t fit into today’s modern world.

But the real message of Midnight in Paris is learning to live in the reality of our existence, making peace and perhaps understanding there really was no Golden Age. In reality, our Golden Age is what we make of our lives in the present.

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