movie thoughts: Midnight in Paris (2011)


‘Midnight in Paris’ works because of Owen Wilson. 

Wilson plays the role that, if the movie had been made in the 70s, would have been played by the film’s writer/director Woody Allen.  But because Allen was smart enough to know he was better off behind the scenes this time, he cast Wilson, who shines.  You can hear the lines coming out of his mouth an imagine Allen writing them, but the way Wilson delivers them, with his unique voice and speech pattern, turns the main character into a likeable character.

Gil (Wilson) is a successful Hollywood scriptwriter who is working on his first novel.  He’s come to Paris with his fiancee, Inez (played by Rachel McAdams), and the visit has rekindled his love for the city that he visited as a younger man.  This movie is a romance, but it’s not about Gil and Inez – it’s about Gil’s love affair with Paris in the 1920s.  One night, when he goes on a midnight stroll, he finds himself transported into the past, rubbing elbows with his literary heroes, and inhabiting the time he feels was a golden age. 

I think movie will appeal to anyone who has ever felt regret and wants that chance to change everything.  Just earlier this week, I was reading an article (Some Advice for Young People), the crux of which was that you shouldn’t be afraid of quitting.  So many of us set our career goals but let our life goals, general happiness, fall by the wayside in the pursuit of these so-called milestones.  When Gil laments the fact that, when he first came to Paris year ago, he didn’t just stay in the city and become a writer, but instead went back to the U.S. to persue his budding scriptwriting career, I think many of us know exactly what that feels like. 

This movie will also appeal to anyone who has ever said “I was born at the wrong time.”  It’s a sweet little look at nostalgia and obsessions with the past and learning to love the now.  Again, it’s all about siezing the moment.  I think artists and dreamers always look to the past for inspiration and many begin to feel envious of the time when the things they love were new. 

It’s a sweet movie.  No big action scenes, it’s not about making big, world-changing statements — it’s about the simple pleasures of life and how easy it is to forget about them but how much we need them.  It’s a love poem to Paris, a city that has managed to mesmerize people for over a century, and still have a magical charm about it today.  I doubt it will win any awards at the Oscars but I’m glad it was nominted because it got me to watch it and I really liked it.  It has lots of heart and laughs and avoids getting too serious.  Again, I think a lot of the credit goes to Owen Wilson and his fantastic performance. 

So the next time you want to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and watch a good movie, I suggest “Midnight in Paris”. 

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