Midnight In Paris
“Midnight In Paris” is Woody Allen at his best: witty, affable, ironic, and whimsical. The setting is completely charming, the casting is surprisingly adept, and the mood is just practically effervescent. Kudos to Owen Wilson for playing against type as Gil, the successful Hollywood scriptwriter, but aspiring novelist, vacationing in Paris with his beautiful but distracted fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her wealthy but doleful, skeptical, and cynical parents. Gil is a literary romanticist, a lover of artifacts and antiques and the blazing personalities of previous eras. He thinks that the Golden Age must surely have been Paris in the 1920’s, with so many illustrious expatriates. His novel is, in fact, about the owner of a nostalgia boutique.
Gil and Inez happen to run into Inez’ professorial friend Paul (Michael Sheen) and his girlfriend, because Paul has been asked to be a guest lecturer at the Sorbonne. He’s full of knowledge about French history and culture, but also quite full of himself, and Gil is trying to avoid their going out as a foursome, but Inez is insistent. Sure enough, Paul is so pseudo-intellectually boorish as to argue with the French guide about Rodin’s personal history, which makes Gil even more determined to be anywhere else, and so he just starts wandering around the streets of Paris by himself.
When the clock tolls midnight, he finds himself on a certain side street where a vintage limousine arrives, and the well-dressed occupants beg him to join them. Together they enter a quaint café where Gil meets a young man who introduces himself as Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston). Who introduces him to his friend, Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll). While they’re listening to Cole Porter at the piano, singing “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love.” Gil is completely stunned. At first he thinks this is somehow an elaborate joke, but after a while he realizes that he has entered some kind of time warp, and he really is in the presence of these cultural giants, in their prime, who in turn introduce him to Gertrude Stein (in an excellent multi-lingual supporting performance by Kathy Bates), Pablo Picasso, and his stunning girlfriend Adriana (Marion Cotillard, not only an amazing beauty but completely fluent in both English and French).
The next morning, he tries to explain his experience to Inez, but naturally, she just thinks he’s so enamored with the past that he’s begun to develop delusions that he’s actually visiting it. She tries to get him to go dancing with her and Paul, but Gil insists that she accompany him to that magical side street. She does, reluctantly, but refuses to wait until midnight, so she misses the vintage limousine, and now Gil becomes even more enamored with Adriana, as they dance the Charleston together, meet Gauguin, and Toulouse Lautrec, and several other contemporary luminaries. They stroll down the Champs Elyse and sample the enchanting Parisian night life, but when they impulsively accept a horse-and-buggy ride, they find themselves in the middle of the Belle Epoch, which turns out to be Adriana’s idea of a Golden Age.
Ah, now we’re getting to the moral of the story, which is, simply, that it’s important to live in the present. Longing for a previous “Golden Era” will only bring you continual dissatisfaction, and a perpetual nagging sense of being born too late.
Of course, though time travel is a well-worn story-telling device and always creates logical absurdities, not to mention difficulty in suspension of disbelief, nevertheless, there’s a purpose for it in the story line. Gil discovers something important about himself, and Inez, as well, and that maybe their impending wedding should be re-considered. Along the way, “Midnight In Paris” is a completely delightful excuse for this magical romp through the enchanting Paris of today and yesterday. You’ll want to book your flight immediately.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Co-Pastor, United Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas