The other day, I had a conversation with my little brother, who plays in a rock band. Over the phone, he lamented about being born in the wrong era. He longed to be a child of the 1960s in order to experience the rock legends of the late 70s and 80s in their prime. Led Zeppelin, Dio and Kiss are a few of his idols and he complains that music just isn’t very good these days. No arguments there. When I suggested that he watch Midnight in Paris, to compare his woes to what the film depicts, he seemed less than interested. He then complained about how movies aren’t as good as they once were, referencing The Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World as the cream of the crop. We all have different opinions.
In Midnight in Paris, Gil (Owen Wilson) has an idealistic time and place as well; 1920s Paris. It was the era of great writers, like Hemmingway, and game changing artists, like Dalí and his surrealists. Gil is a Hollywood screen writer who wants to write, what he considers, real literature. He has been working, and rewriting and tweaking a novel for some time now. On a business trip to Paris with his fiancé, Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), it seems he has the right place, but not the time. Nor the right people.
What is most frustrating to Gil is that rather than enjoying and trying to absorb the beauty and history around them, Inez always wants them to go with her friends, Paul (Michael Sheen) and Carol (Nina Arianda). The foursome visits modern art galleries, Versailles and (my personal favorite) the Rodin Museum. All the fun is sucked out with Paul pretentiously spouting pseudo-intellectual jabber. He even argues with the tour guide at times.
It’s only late at night that Gil can get away and have some time to himself. As most writers do, he walks. And after midnight, oh the magic he stumbles into is too wonderful for me to spoil!
Seeing so much of the beauty and creative life that makes Paris special makes me wonder how exactly Woody Allen sees it. Most film enthusiasts know that New York his his home and a majority of his films are set and filmed there. Is Paris the European equivalent to New York to Allen? And where does 1920s Paris compare with various eras in New York? These are all questions of perspective, not fact, and I think Woody drops some big hints in this film through Gil, but is wily enough to make us keep guessing.
Midnight in Paris was nominated for four Oscars: Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Art Direction and Woody Allen for Best Director.
I want to recommend Midnight in Paris for everyone, but especially writers, musicians and artists of all sorts. The artistic communities all have their great predecessors that we look to and admire. Midnight in Paris is one of those films that fully understands that and the frustrations we can feel when others fail to. The film can also help us get past that barrier we put up, believing that we could never be as good as Hemmingway, Dalí. Or Dio.
“The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”
If The Academy is looking to award a witty, nostalgic comedy with a unique flare of magic, Midnight in Paris will win the Oscar for Best Picture.