“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
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
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
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
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
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
of today and yesterday. You’ll want
to book your flight immediately.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Co-Pastor,
United Presbyterian Church,