Dir. Woody Allen. U.S.A. 2011.

Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk







About Us


Midnight in Paris is a film that that the Parisian tourist board will be very pleased with. Woody Allen’s latest feature gives us a rose-tinted view of France’s capital, screening shots of The Eiffel Tower, Le Arc de Triumphe and the usual spectacle of Paris that tourists will be overly familiar with. Upon first glance, the characters seem to spend their time prancing around art galleries, sipping fine wine and dining out in fancy restaurants. The film opens with this heavily sugar-coated vision of Paris and just when it seemed as if it could not get any worse, as if on cue, Carla Bruni appears as our guide to the city.

This, sadly, is the perception given to you by the trailer. It gives the impression that the film is simply about Owen Wilson strolling around Paris eating baguettes and smelly cheese, thereby ignoring the aspect of the film that makes it exciting. As much as I feel at risk of giving away too much away, this aspect of the film happens pretty early on in the film and is its crucial selling point. So the spoiler alerts can stay silent for now!

Owen Wilson’s character, Gil, has the rather extraordinary experience of time travel. At the stroke of midnight, Gil is invited into a carriage which magically takes him back in time. This Parisian DeLorean takes him back to the time of 1920’s Paris, the place he always dreamed of living. His wild fantasy becomes reality as he finds himself frolicking around with artists like F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso. He even gets the famous Gertrude Stein to review the first chapter of the novel he is currently writing.

Whether it is Ernest Hemingway looking for a fight, or Salvador Dali’s fixation with a rhinoceros, Gil’s life among the artistic elite of the 1920’s is certainly very amusing. Allen’s depiction of the artistic giants of the early 20th century is not simply an homage to his heroes, but a look at their eccentricities in a very frank and funny way.

Gil worked as a successful Hollywood script writer but it is in novel writing that his heart truly lies. In struggling to write his first novel-a story of a man who owns a nostalgia shop-Gil looks to the city of Paris for inspiration. On this trip, Gil is accompanied by his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her two very conservative parents. Gil’s future in-laws do not share Gil’s romantic aspiration of becoming a novelist and believe he should stick to his successful career in Hollywood.

Hollywood is something that Allen overtly mocks throughout the film. Gil’s process of churning out Hollywood scripts leaves him with a sense of emptiness, describing himself as a “Hollywood hack who never gave real art a shot”. Moreover Inez even speaks of a Hollywood film that she had enjoyed, but had completely forgotten what it was about the next morning.  She recalls that the main character was hilarious but cannot remember his name, reminiscent of some of the rather funny but forgettable films Owen Wilson himself has starred in during his career.

In this role, we see Wilson getting away from the Hollywood comedy vehicle we normally associate him with and stepping into less familiar terrain. He plays the famous neurotic hero of the Woody Allen franchise, the role Woody Allen himself is too old to play. Even though Woody’s persona seems a million miles away from Wilson’s Californian surfer image, we still see shades of the familiar neurotic basket case we know and love, particularly when Gil describes supporters of the Iraq war as “demented lunatics”.

This Californian Alfie Singer is not the only character that is reminiscent of earlier Allen movies. Paul (Michael Sheen) represents another familiar figure that Allen fans will recognize; he is a pseudo-intellectual whose pompous lecturing about French art would not look out of place in Allen classics like Annie Hall or Manhattan. Even when he gets the details wrong about a Picasso painting, he dismisses the correct information given by Gil, a man who has spent the previous night with the man in question.

The film draws heavily on the notion of nostalgia. Gil’s nostalgic vision is undermined by the nostalgic vision of Picasso’s mistress, who believes that the 1890s was Paris’s golden age. Furthermore, 1890’s artists like Degas and Gauguin believe that the renaissance was their golden age. So the message seems to be that no true golden age of art and that nostalgia is something delusory.

Most audience members will also feel nostalgic, nostalgic for the Woody Allen films of old. The film shows shades of the wonderful quirkiness and charm that makes a great Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris is simply a good Woody Allen movie. For some fans that’s enough.


David Keenan

Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
Site searchWeb search
   Home | News | Features
    Book Reviews | About Us