Owen Wilson Stars in a Delightful Movie From Woody Allen
Midnight in Paris (2011) is Woody Allen's fanciful and funny love letter to the City of Light, and it features a terrific cast, led by Owen Wilson, who makes a surprisingly good fictional alter ego for the filmmaker. Other actors in the movie include Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates and Adrien Brody. There's also a small role played by Carla Bruni, wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The film's protagonist is Gil Pender (Wilson), a Hollywood screenwriter who in 2010 visits Paris and finds himself transported back to the 1920s. There he encounters Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Picasso and other famous historical figures. This gives Allen the opportunity to hilariously parody the macho Hemingway (Corey Stoll), who pontificates, "And that's what war does to men. And there's nothing fine and noble about dying in the mud. Unless you die gracefully."
The movie also has many sequences set in contemporary Paris, including such charming locations as the lovely gardens of the Rodin Museum, the part of the Musée de l'Orangerie containing Monet's big water lily paintings and the ornate bridge over the Seine called Pont Alexandre III. Allen has made the film as a valentine to Paris, and he has his alter ego Gil gush, "Wow. I don't know what it is about this city! It's like, I've gotta write a note to the Chamber of Commerce." In the movie, Paris' less pleasant aspects are largely ignored, although Allen does have Spanish painter Salvador Dalí (Adrien Brody) comment, "I love the language. The French! The waiters? No."
Witty Dialogue and Paris at Its Most Romantic
In Midnight in Paris, Gil is a Hollywood hack writer, but when he comes to France, he brings along a 400-page manuscript of his first novel. He says it's "about a man who works in a nostalgia shop." Gil worries that is a terrible subject, but Hemingway tells him, "No subject is terrible if the story is true, and if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure."
Gil is on the trip with his fiancée (McAdams), who wants him to abandon the novel and focus on making money. Then one night when he is alone on a deserted Paris street, a 1920s Peugeot Landaulet 184 pulls up. He gets into the car and is whisked away to a party where Cole Porter sings "Let's Do It" and the guests include Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald.
While he's in 1920s Paris, Gil falls for Adriana (Cotillard), who has serial sexual relationships with Modigliani, Braque, Picasso and Hemingway. She tells Gil, "When I was in Catholic school, one weekend my roommate and I, we paid a girl from Pigalle to come and teach us all her tricks."
Gil meets Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), who gives him valuable advice on his novel. She apparently no longer wants to go hunting in Africa with Hemingway because she says, "The sound of hyenas in your ears at night when you're trying to sleep in a tent just drives you crazy."
Allen brings all this to a satisfying ending and even manages to work in a message about what one character (Sheen) calls "Golden Age thinking" — "the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one's living in."
Press Conference at Cannes
The only extra on the Midnight in Paris DVD is five minutes of excerpts from a press conference held at the Cannes Film Festival. This allows you to hear from writer-director Woody Allen — who at the time was 75 years old — along with four of the actors: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen and Adrien Brody. Allen gets a chuckle out of the press corps when he tells them, "You know, the trick in casting is to hire great people and let them do what they do. Don't interfere with them too much. And then when they're great, take credit for it."
DVD Release Date: December 20, 2011
Runtime: 1 hour 34 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Some Sexual References and Smoking