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Midnight in Paris (2011) Review: A Dreamer’s Guide to Nostalgia!

The 16:9 cover photo for the movie "Midnight in Paris."

“Midnight in Paris” follows a man’s journey through time as he explores the allure of nostalgia and the longing for the past in the streets of Paris.

Introduction: Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris is a film that explores the longing for the past that some individuals experience, even when the past wasn’t necessarily better. Something about the past calls to them, and whether it’s the unattainability of time gone by or a tendency towards despair regarding the future, it’s hard to say. This intellectually stimulating movie follows the dreams of a man who can’t resist the allure of nostalgia.

As a film critic, I must say that Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is a film that I deeply envy. It may not be a perfect 10 out of 10, but it’s certainly a movie that speaks to dreamers like myself.

One of the most appealing aspects of the film is undoubtedly its setting in Paris. The formula for happiness is clear: one Paris, one rain, and a time machine. There were conversations I missed throughout the film because I was too busy looking at the streets of Paris. Our European film has a cast of many famous actors, including Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillord, Katy Bates, and Michael Sheen in leading roles. In supporting roles, we have Adrien Brody, Léa Seydoux, and Tom Hiddleston, among others. Imagine the festival vibe of this movie. Moreover, it won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar and Golden Globe in 2012.

Gil and Inez, two characters from the movie "Midnight in Paris," share a kiss in a sunset Parisian setting.

Setting the Stage: Meet Gil and Inez

Gil, the hopeless dreamer who is the protagonist, was raised by a wealthy and arrogant American family and is about to marry Inez, who always looks for happiness in material things. Our engaged couple gets the chance to go to Paris because of Inez’s father’s business. While Gil wants to buy an 18 euro Cole Porter record while walking the rainy streets of Paris, Inez is looking for an antique worth 18 thousand euros. One night, Gil gets lost while a little drunk. Trying to figure out where he is, he can’t refuse an invitation from a car that seems to have come from the 1920s. Thus, he embarks on a journey that changes his life. This journey changes everyone’s lives. Gil, who goes on a strange adventure, takes us with him, and we get lost together in 20th-century Paris. I watched this artful, imagination-fueling film without ever getting bored. You can watch it on a rainy autumn evening or a sunny Sunday, and I guarantee that it will make you feel good no matter when you watch it.

Let’s put aside the flattery for a moment because this movie has more than just surface level appeal. It’s a tale of two mismatched lovers, with enough heartache and tears to make you feel the burn. The casting was spot on, in my opinion. I’ve always liked Owen Wilson, and Marion Cotillard is simply amazing. But let’s dive right into the plot.

Two characters from the movie "Midnight in Paris," Gil and Adriana, walk together in a dimly lit environment at night, looking at each other.

The film opens with a three-minute celebration of Paris, and then we’re introduced to Gil, Inez, and their families over dinner. Gil is treated like an alien at the table. This awkward scene sets the stage for the rest of the film, as tensions continue to rise between the couple and Inez’s annoying friend Paul and his wife Nina join them. You won’t find a more uptight couple than Paul and Nina. Paul is a know-it-all, and Nina adores him. You know the type.

Meeting the Icons of the Past: The Fitzgeralds and Hemingway

After these introductions, the two couples who can’t seem to get along decide to go sightseeing together. One night, Gil gets tired of their company (can you blame him?) and leaves early to go back to the hotel. He hops in a classic car, as mentioned earlier, and finds himself traveling back to the 1920s. The passengers he picks up in the car take him to a party where he meets F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda Fitzgerald, who was a painter and writer.

Two characters, Zelda Fitzgerald and F. Scott Fitzgerald, from the movie "Midnight in Paris."

Their relationship was tumultuous. They were always jealous of each other, seeing each other as rivals, but they never gave up on their relationship. Zelda, who was already prone to melancholy, did not handle the ups and downs of their relationship very well. Scott was always more popular and successful in Zelda’s eyes. She had been tired of living in his shadow for years, so she tried activities like ballet that didn’t involve competition, but they never lasted long. Zelda was upset by Scott’s friendship with Ernest Hemingway, so she ended it. The couple had a daughter, but that didn’t really change much. Zelda suffered from chronic melancholy and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, spending many years in the hospital away from her husband. After Scott died of a heart attack eight years later, Zelda died in a fire at the mental hospital where she was staying. An interesting couple indeed.

Gil can’t believe he’s met this couple, and then he’s even more surprised to see his favorite author, Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway hadn’t yet written his most famous works, like For Whom the Bell Tolls, but he was still young and full of confidence. Gil is a romantic at heart and fits right in with this group. When he returns to 2010, he excitedly tells Inez what happened, but of course she doesn’t believe him.

Hemingway’s Portrayal and Gil’s Distancing from the Present

In Midnight in Paris, they did a great job of showing how Hemingway’s childhood (his mother issues) and the traumas of war made him a bit unstable. Hemingway filled the emptiness inside him by writing, writing, and writing some more. Corey Stoll did an excellent job portraying this literary giant.

As Gil becomes more comfortable in the past, he distances himself from the present. Inez starts spending more time with Paul, and Gil’s eyes are fixed on a life that happened a century ago.

Let’s return to our nostalgic fashion designer, Adriana. No longer content with being second fiddle, she distances herself from Gil. Perplexed, Gil (whatever it was that he couldn’t understand) watches as Salvador Dali beckons him over to his table. Look at all these names, it’s all art, artist, scarf…

Gil and Inez, two characters from the movie "Midnight in Paris," walk away from the camera, laughing, in a nighttime Parisian setting.

Salvador Dali is perhaps one of the strangest and most talented individuals to ever walk the earth. A surrealist painter and a colorful personality, he has at times drawn criticism for his interesting political stances. Sometimes he fixated on Hitler, other times on cauliflower. Yes, during a speech to a large crowd, he once shouted, “Everything ends in cauliflower!” Therefore, it was fitting for Dali to obsess over the rhinoceros in the film, and it didn’t seem out of place. Everything ends with the rhinoceros!

Man Ray: A man in love with a woman from a different era. I see a photograph!

Luis Buñuel: I see a film!

Gil: I see insurmountable problem!

Salvador Dalí: I see rhinoceros!

Dali, American photographer Man Ray, Spanish director and screenwriter Luis Buñuel Portolés, and our bewildered Gil are all sitting at the same table. It’s like the beginning of a joke. Gil, excuse me, but do you think the thing you need advice on is your love life, while sitting at a table with these people? He admires all of these artists, but he can’t seem to hold a proper conversation with any of them. He just talks to Gertrude Stein, whom he asks to read his novel. I would have liked Gil to be a little more flabbergasted. These encounters don’t seem to leave him stunned for very long. Everyone around him is a legendary figure, sit with them, break the ice, but no, you’re just trying to win over Adriana. Anyway, let’s return to the story. Adriana, who has distanced herself from Gil, goes on safari with Hemingway, who was already waiting for her. Meanwhile, Inez and Gil can’t even talk properly anymore. With this rift, Inez also cheats on Gil with Paul. Reading in Adriana’s book that she was in love with him, Gil devises a plan to make his ideal love declaration to her.

The Allure of the Past

Gertrude Stein, the famous American writer, was known for being the first to discover works of innovative artists. Although Stein was rumored to be a lesbian, her relationship with Dino was strictly platonic. Stein had pursued studies in medicine and psychology before realizing her passion for literature and moving to France.

Gil, a character from the movie "Midnight in Paris," stands with his back to Inez, looking contemplative in a nighttime Parisian setting. Inez is sitting on a flight of stairs nearby, looking tired and drained.

In the film “Midnight in Paris,” the protagonist Gil and his love interest Adriana travel back in time to meet legendary painters such as Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas. Although Gil is a nostalgia enthusiast who is enamored with the Golden Age of the 1920s, Adriana, who aspires to become a fashion designer, prefers the Belle Epoque period of the 1890s. Gil eventually comes to the realization that living in the past is not the solution to his problems, and returns to the present day, determined to live in the moment.

The film’s plot may be construed as a metaphor for director Woody Allen’s own desires, as some speculate that the character of Gil is Allen’s projection of himself. However, it would have been more interesting if Gil had been portrayed as a more likable and distinctive character rather than an Allen clone. Despite this, the film is a celebration of the magic of Paris, with its stunning scenery and charming atmosphere.

In conclusion, “Midnight in Paris” is a thought-provoking and visually enchanting film that showcases the beauty of Paris and the joys of living in the present. While the characters may have their flaws, the movie is a testament to the power of imagination and the importance of embracing life’s fleeting moments.

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Last modified: September 24, 2023