OSCARS REVIEW: "Midnight In Paris" Is a Cultured Confection
Granted that Woody Allen productions are as much an acquired taste as escargot, “Midnight In Paris” is a seeming exception to his sardonic style. It is warm, inviting, a movie that taps into the wanderlust in the hearts of viewers and then coaxingly whispers “Go to Paris, it is where dreams come true.”
Unlike a slew of mediocre movies that manhandle the Eiffel Tower as a throwaway piece of scenery, “Midnight in Paris” reestablishes and upholds the sanctity of the famed city. Paris is as much a character as any played by Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, or Marion Cotillard; it is inarguably the heart of the film.
And if Paris is the heart, pulsing with the promise of adventure, Owen Wilson is the soul. His character, Gil, is taken to the city on vacation with his irritating fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams at her least likeable since Regina George) and her equally as frustrating parents, however, he yearns for something more. Their caviar-and-guided-tour tunnel vision of the city crimps his free-spirited style, and ultimately disables his dream of giving up the big Hollywood paycheck (he is a screenwriter) and moving to Paris to pursue his own creativity.
How curiously connected are the city of Paris and the notion of being an artiste? A connection that was certainly not overlooked by the film. Especially not when Inez’s old professor and crush rolls into town with a heavy pedantic tendency and so many useless expertises he should be called up by Guinness World Records. Michael Sheen plays this character just on the very edge of your nerve, so refined and cultured, but entirely grating. Inez’s admiration is palpable, the two (and his string-along wife) believing they are enjoying the best art and culture the city has to offer.
Irony abounds as the film throws the notion of recognizing and appreciating culture into complete cacophony before finding it again eight decades earlier. While his company ooh’s and ahh’s and corrects the tour guides at museums all across France, Gil goes on nightly romps around town with the likes of the FitzGerald’s and Hemingway.
How he happens to get to the 1920s is a magic and mystery best left for viewing only. But what I will say is that Marion Cotillard’s Adriana, an aspiring designer whose big brown eyes are all at once incredibly wise and incredibly sad, is a shining star in the film. She possesses the coquettish and dazzling charm that makes every viewer fall half in love with her. Just as she is a muse to the artists of the 20s, she is a muse to the movie itself, infusing each scene with a sultry lust for life that is utterly contagious.
Similarly, Adrian Brody’s portrayal of surrealist Salvador Dali is spot on, truly uncanny and tragic only in its brevity.
The film secretly hides a double-edged sword in its praise of 1920s Paris, a well known ‘The grass is always greener” message that while, has been done before, has never really been done to this degree of poignancy. At the close of “Midnight in Paris”, the viewer is left reinvigorated with a “nostalgia is nonsense” enthusiasm for living in the now. It poses a challenge to go find what is so special about living in the world today before it dissolves into the unattainable historical yearnings of future generations.
Charming, cultured, and an all around feel-good movie, the Academy has honored “Midnight in Paris” with a nomination for best picture. And while awards and accolades are all deserved and honorable, the best way to uphold the idea of the film would be to watch it, and be inspired by it. After all, most artists make art not for the praise but for the message.
Second best only by a several hour plane ride and mighty pricey airline ticket to absconding to Paris, “Midnight in Paris” is a must see.
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Watch a trailer for the film below: