film recommendation: midnight in paris

I like Woody Allen films. Say what you will, the man can express himself exquisitely.

All of his films are very personal in content. We now know vast amounts about the inner workings of Woody Allen’s head, whether or not we want to. I happen to love it. His humour, his insecurities, his cleverness, and the things that inspire him—it’s all so exposed and by default, charming.

Midnight in Paris is the perfect representation of all his most endearing qualities.

I constantly get Owen Wilson mixed up with Matthew McConaughey. I know absolutely nothing about either of them, but my impressions have never been flattering. In this movie, Owen Wilson washed the slate clean, and I will never again confuse the two.

gil pender (owen wilson) watches josephine baker dance at bricktop’s club, the music box

gil pender (owen wilson) watches josephine baker dance at bricktop’s club, the music box

I think at times, Owen Wilson was even more Woody Allen than Woody Allen. All of his foibles, quirks, intonations, Wilson had down pat. And he brings his own interpretations in—the one in particular I noticed was that of a big, dopey, cuddly sheepdog. In the best possible way.

I would give just about anything to experience what his character Gil Pender does – every midnight he gets into a Peugeot and goes back into Paris of the 20s, rubbing elbows with the incredible artists and writers of that time. He’s a scriptwriter in Hollywood who is working on his first novel, and having a bit of a tough time of it. Who better to be inspired by than F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein?

All of the artist and personality portrayals in this movie are so spot on, it’s a little scary. I felt transported back in time as well, and did my own little worshipful gasps and smiles at the encounters with Man Ray, Cole Porter, and Pablo Picasso. Throw in a cute and sexy little cameo by Josephine Baker and an incredible look alike Alice B. Toklas answering the door, and it’s like entering into a parallel dream world.

corey stoll as ernest hemingway

corey stoll as ernest hemingway

My favourite, though, is Corey Stoll as Hemingway. His intense stare as he regales Gil with tales of war – “And he was young and brave, and the hill was soggy from days of rain. And it sloped down toward a road and there were many German soldiers on the road….” – was about as perfect and mesmerizing as it gets.

There were some problems with the film. Gil’s villainous fiancée and her snobby parents, and the fiancée’s pedantic professor former crush, were black as the blackest coal, not a redeeming quality within. Makes you wonder how Gil even found himself in such a terribly wrong relationship with a woman he clearly had nothing in common with. He needed a good slap for getting into such a predicament. But all in all, this is a fun and beautifully filmed treat for anyone who would love to take a step back in time through perhaps the most artistically blessed city in the world. Oh, and the music is perfect, too. Of course.

I’m a bit like Gil’s crush Adriana, an art groupie extraordinaire whose perfect Golden Age is la Belle Époque. But as Gil points out, those people had no antibiotics, so I think it’s more suited to a nightly visit than an extended stay. I confess I’ve made many, many visits to this film, and will make many more.

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