Usually I don’t watch films by myself but yesterday evening I was feeling a bit under the weather so I curled up in bed and went to find a film on Netflix. In the end I chose Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (yes I am aware of the allegations, no I don’t feel qualified to comment). This is the only Woody Allen film I have seen so I can’t comment on how it fits into his larger body of work, but I can say I really enjoyed it, almost in spite of myself. WARNING: fairy spoilery review
Midnight in Paris follows Gil (Owen Wilson), a screenwriter turned aspiring novelist who is on holiday in Paris with his fiancee, Inez, (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. Rachel McAdams is FANTASTIC in this role. Allen creates an ever-widening ideological gulf between Gil, a liberal romantic who wants to wander Paris in the rain and never leave it, and Inez, a materialistic and practical woman who has no desire to get her hair wet, and dreams of living in Malibu. The film pretty obviously expects you to root for Gil and dislike his right-wing, shallow future in-laws, which was not completely my experience. I mean, Inez likes parties and dancing and being sociable, she is charming, because she is played by Rachel McAdams, and she is always gorgeously dressed. Her shallowness becomes increasingly apparent and by the end I was, if not completely on Gil’s side, not on Inez’s. But Gil is just so…that self-absorbed dude in poetry class. He is engaged, but on his second night in Paris starts up a flirtation with Adriana, that leads him to stealing his fiancee’s earrings as a present for Adriana in the hopes that he and Adriana will sleep together. Let’s just sit with that shitty, shitty behaviour for a moment.
Fantastic comic acting from Rachel McAdams and her actor parents – it’s great deadpan comedy that toes the line between realism and caricature. The famous 1920s characters are similarly affected, Hemingway being brooding and intense and speaking like he is quoting the entire time, and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald being party animals who can’t actually carry on a conversation with the dumbstruck Gil, but adopt him anyway.
I loved the ending of the film, that Gil realised that he was idealising the past and that he didn’t end up with Adriana, but returns to his own era. The introduction of bric-a-brac girl was cute, but for me the film was better the more it leant towards ‘Gil’s journey of self-discovery’ as opposed to ‘Gil is infatuated with different ladies’.