Amid the tempest of sequels and special effects that currently shrouds Hollywood, it seems difficult to find a good summer movie. Woody Allen’s latest production, Midnight in Paris, might cast off your concerns–it’s a thoughtful and strikingly elegant film.
Owen Wilson plays Gil Bender, a restless, romantic screenwriter, who travels to Paris with his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her parents. Inez isn’t as enamored by the bohemian lifestyle Paris represents for Gil, so he walks the city streets at night alone, finding himself actually transported into the roaring twenties, an era he considers to be a golden age.
Some of the film’s most delightful moments occur as Gil encounters beloved literary and artistic figures of the time. He comes across a brusque, rugged Hemingway (Corey Stoll), whose blunt remarks on the value of courage, truth and the importance of hunting and making love epitomize (even exaggerate) the persona that is clearly present in Hemingway’s prose.
Woody Allen also attempts to capture Zelda Fitzgerald (Alison Pill) and of course, her husband F. Scott (Tom Hiddleston), as well as Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), and my personal favorite, Salvador Dalí (Adrien Brody).
The plot thickens when Gil finds himself not only falling in love with 1920s Paris but with Picasso’s young mistress, Adriana (Marion Cotillard). Gil’s relationship with Adriana is no carefree fling though, forcing Gil to ask an uncomfortable question: Can he live happily in the past and forget the present? This philosophical quandary becomes more complicated as Adriana confesses that she would prefer to live in the 1890s, a time she considers a golden age.
This “grass is always greener” mentality is something that resonated with me. I’ve often thought I would love to have grown up in The Sixties, a time when important social movements took the world by storm and rock n’ roll was at its finest. Midnight in Paris reminded me that there are downsides to living in any time period. If I lived during my golden age I would miss the convenience and profound influence of the internet, and been frustrated by the enforced Vietnam draft. But I can certainly relate to Gil’s longing for a perfect, simpler time.
Midnight in Paris not only brings to the screen witty representations of important artists and gorgeous Parisian scenery, but it serves as a commentary on the nature of humans, our longings and awakenings.