And I mean that in a good and wonderful sense.
You should expect a little of the cliché melodramatic swapping of hearts in a Woody Allen film, and “Midnight in Paris” does not disappoint. You get adulterous longings reminiscent of Allen’s “Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy” (1982), mixed with a bit of the impossible akin to “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985). Though I may be a bit influenced since I secretly went to see this film, for the second time, alone, in the afternoon, in the middle of the theater. Boy did I feel like Mia Farrow.
But something about the writing in this new film feels like it’s reaching to be erudite, rather than resembling a sweet American naiveté.
It probably has to do with Owen Wilson’s writer character Gil’s time travel-partying with the 1920s literati—a very intriguing concept indeed.
When Gil goes for a midnight inspiration stroll, a curious dark cabby elicits him inside, where a dazzled Scott (Tom Hiddleston) and Zelda (Alison Pill) Fitzgerald lure him on to their Montmartre soirée, introducing him along the way to the likes of Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates).
Gil continues his midnight time travel walks as his snobbish fiancé (Rachel McAdams) and her family romp through Paris, elite society style. In the roaring dusk of 1920s Paris Gil journeys to, which has a ruddiness not unlike Hemingway’s Novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926), he falls in love with a dame bohème (Marion Cotillard), and I did too; she is dashing and dark and doing an array of artists and writers. But to his luck, Gil fits her bill, and she takes a fancy with him.
Yet the overarching theme of “La Belle Époque” sarcastically ploys across the brush strokes of this film, and as the characters yearn for the romantic grandeur of the previous centuries, which to them are imbued with the idea of a golden era, the characters, mostly, come to realize that at the present moment in any time, intellect wants us to believe that times that were truly great came before them. But in reality, the present usually has the upper hand in that society tends to move forward, against injustice and famine and disease and war, those little events we tend to forget when we think about a quality of life in the past.
I enjoyed this realization. I too am of the belief that I would have fit in better decades ago, but we only have the present. It is, however, important, I believe, to hold on to a sentimentality for the past, and to keep up and practice simpler concepts of value and quality and beauty in order to not throw away a mindset that great artists and writers and family evolved to. Some sects of society today seem to be going in reverse, but not all. I’ll stick with the new age of hippies longing for nature and pastoral simplicity…