Midnight in Paris – Review

Film: Midnight in Paris (2011)

Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Corey Stoll, Tom Hiddleston, Adrien Brody, Michael Sheen, Lea Seydoux, Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy, Carla Bruni, Alison Pill

Directed by: Woody Allen 

Produced by: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Jaume Roures

Written by: Woody Allen

Running Time: 94 minutes

Rating: PG-13

The legendary Woody Allen returned to the romantic comedy scene in a big way in 2011 with Midnight in Paris. Allen has become too old to play the typical part of the young to middle-aged protagonists he creates, so in recent years, he has had to search for actors that can channel his unique style of wit, intelligence, and meticulousness.

Enter Owen Wilson, who truly shines as the Allen-like Gil Pender, a Hollywood screenwriter who is looking to go in a different direction by writing his first novel. He and his fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams; Wedding Crashers reunion complete), have traveled to Paris for business and for vacation. They are accompanied by Inez’s parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), along with their pompous friend, Paul (Michael Sheen).

Gil is not only looking to delve into new artistic territory with his novel; his visit to Paris also ignites a desire to spend his life there instead of in California, and his nostalgic longing for the culture of the 1920s (nostalgia is also the central theme of his novel) is only intensified by his current setting. Inez, meanwhile, does not seem to care much about his aspirations, and urges him to stay rational as a money maker in Hollywood.

Eventually, the title of the film comes into play. When Gil is wandering around Paris alone one night and midnight strikes, he suddenly finds that he is in 1920s Paris. He meets several prominent names in literature and art, including Ernest Hemingway (played hilariously by Corey Stoll), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), and Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody). Through Hemingway, Gil even has Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) read his novel and make suggestions.

Soon, Gil becomes smitten with Picasso’s girlfriend, Adriana (Marion Cotillard), thus finding himself in a weird position — he longs for a woman from the past while he is engaged to someone else in the present. However, he comes to find out that Adriana also longs for the past; in particular, the turn of the century. Gil loves the 1920s because it is different from his present, but Adriana loves the turn of the century because it is different from her present. Gil comes to realize that the idea of a “golden age” is purely relative, as everyone will find flaws in their present time and yearn for a period in the past that they perceive as perfect. When dreaming of a “golden age,” people only think about the best things of that time that directly counter the particular imperfections of their present. Here, Allen communicates a message that seems simple once it’s communicated, but in reality is quite deep.

As Gil becomes more aware of this truth, he returns to his present time with a different outlook and seeks to embrace the best things that that time has to offer. As Gil is going through this revealing journey, he is played extremely well by Wilson, who delivers the witty monologues of Allen while simultaneously incorporating his own unique mannerisms. Like much of Allen’s best work, Midnight in Paris features a high amount of humor (I was particularly amused when Dali and his friends did not find Gil’s time-traveling adventure to be weird at all, since they were surrealists) but also explores complex themes; this film in particular examines the idea of nostalgia. In communicating this message in this style, Allen effectively connects with core human thoughts and emotions.

Being a romantic comedy, Midnight in Paris does struggle to avoid predictability in its final act. However, Allen’s oft-used combination of humor, wit, and intelligence (which was embodied in a screenplay that just won a Golden Globe) makes the 94-minute film crisply entertaining and enjoyable.

Tommy D’s Score:





3.25/4 Tommy Ds

About Tommy D

Clemson and UGA alum with a market research job in LA. And I kind of like movies.

Posted on January 20, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. You enjoyed it as much as Warrior? Must be pretty good. Is it done in an artsy way or a ghosts of Christmas past kind of way?

    Also, thanks for commenting on my sports post (http://ryankantor.com/2012/01/14/hiroki-kuroda-and-michael-pineda-to-don-pinstripes/). Sorry they sat in spam for a few days. Still not sure why that happened.

    If you want to write about the new Shinedown album upcoming in a few months, let me know. Otherwise I’m going to start planning a album review.

  2. Hard to say if I enjoyed it as much as Warrior. If you remember this post (http://tommydtalksmovies.com/2011/09/12/the-difficulties-of-reviewing-movies/), I indicate that just because two movies have the same score does not necessarily mean they are exactly equal in my view. This was a totally different kind of movie from Warrior. That said, definitely not too artsy and very accessible to a wide audience.

    You can review the SD album. I’ll comment.

  3. Fantastic write-up! I really dug this film too, and had zero idea what it was about when I grabbed it to watch. The trip to the past was so much fun, I couldn’t help but giggle a bit at every new historical figure introduced. Brody was definitely my favorite.

    Owen Wilson is one of those actors I’ve had to get accustomed to, but I really loved him here. And good God, who wouldn’t fall for Marion Cotillard?

    I just wonder what any later generation would look back at this time and see as being “golden” and exciting. The rise of the internet, maybe? It’s hard to imagine…

    Thanks for posting! :)

  4. Thanks for reading and commenting! I agree that the scene with Dali was one of the best in the film. Just knowing that it was Adrien Brody made it even more entertaining.

    Allen’s message really does get you thinking. Some of the things in today’s world that we perceive to be imperfections could be revered by later generations.

  5. Nice review sir – I think you did a fine job of getting your arms around Woody’s core themes in this film. Just wondering why it took you so long to get to this one – waited for the DVD I’ll bet – I saw it in a packed theater and a few hundred folks all laughing at the same time it was even more enjoyable.


    • Unfortunately I can never get around to see every movie in theaters. It would be awesome if that was my job. But yeah, I watched it after it came out and I had heard good things about it. I imagine it would have been great in a theater with a laughing audience.

  1. Pingback: Tommy D’s Top 10 Films of 2011 « Tommy D Talks Movies

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