"That's what the present is. It's a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying."Ask many critics and they'd tell you that they dropped out of the Woody Allen fan club several movies ago. Despite the negative buzz about his more recent flicks, few can deny his uncanny influence to cinema, providing a very distinguished perspective on charmingly neurotic characters that are precisely written. This can also be said about his most current movie (still in limited indie theaters), Midnight in Paris.
Owen Wilson stars as Gil, a Hollywood (semi)heavyweight-turned-quasi-novelist who is on a unsatisfying vacation in Paris with his fiance, Inez (Rachel McAdams), her snobby parents and her pretentious friends Paul and Carol. While he spends his days searching for inspiration for his book on the streets of Paris (partly to escape the scrutiny of Inez and her cohorts), Inez busies herself shopping, dancing, and dining. One particular night out gallivanting alone Gil finds more than just inspiration for his book; he finds its premise, by fantastically escaping into eras--including the Roaring '20s and the Renaissance period--where some of the greatest literary giants wrote their famous tomes. With a little help from such literary legends as Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, and artistic geniuses like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Henri Matisse, Gil was not only able to find inspiration for his book but he also found a portal for him to relate with like-minded individuals.
In each episode, Gil falls further into this nostalgic world in which he approaches each new character he meets with gusto and charm. It's hard not to smile as he encounters his idols and becomes more and more inspired, even if it is by dream-like circumstance. You root for him, even though you know it's not real. It's real enough for him to be inspired, and that's all that matters. Besides, his real life is so dismal who can blame him for trying to find a means to escape it if it means coming back anew?
Midnight in Paris is an extremely imaginative and invigorating film to watch. Poetically written and directed by Allen, it's not without its signature Allen-esque neuroses and banter. McAdams' flippant and somewhat whimsical Inez is an interest contrast to Wilson's Gil. How Gil relates to both the past and present--including each character in each--is fascinating to watch. Wilson embraces Gil without losing his signature boyish, unassuming appeal he puts into most his characters.
Although each nostalgic character's time is quite fleeting--especially Adrien Brody's brief but entertaining appearance as Dalí--none of them are without unforgettable one-liners and enchanting stories. Kathy Bates' Gertrude Stein is a hilarious darling. Marion Cotillard is beautifully alluring as the layered and somewhat lost Adriana. And Alison Pill almost steals the show with her performance as the flighty yet charmingly brilliant Zelda Fitzgerald.
Allen does what few writer/directors can do--write a ensembles piece with one central character that doesn't cheat any character's story. You feel like you know and can appreciate each character as their stories' aren't skimpily written. Midnight in Parisis a very unselfish and lovely approach to inspiration, love, and the written word. A must watch.