Midnight in Paris (Movie 2011)

5 Kernels

Stars: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni, Adrien Brody, Michael Sheen

I will admit that I occasionally find no interest in movies based on their title and cover.  “Midnight in Paris” happened to be one of those that I had no desire to watch. Frankly, I’m not that interested in vacationing in Paris, so I thought the movie wouldn’t interest me if that happened to be the subject matter.  I knew it did well in Oscar nominations and wins for Woody Allen, but it didn’t incite me to watch it anyway.

So here we are, four years later, and I rent it on Amazon Prime streaming instant video.  What a fantastic romantic comedy with a message that, for me as an author, goes straight to my heart.

Meet Gil Pender, a screenwriter and hopeful novelist, who is vacationing in Paris.  He is somewhat like me in the fact that he fantasizes about eras past. For him, it’s the 1920’s in Paris, while for me I’m stuck in the Victorian Era.  Gil thinks that life must have been really peachy in Paris with the great upcoming artists of its time like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Stein, Picasso, and many others.  In fact, he is so in love with Paris, that he tries to talk his fiancee to moving there to live after they marry. However, she’s more of a realist and really wants to stay in the states in Malibu and Hollywood.

One evening, when his girlfriend would rather go dancing than walk back to the hotel with him, they go their separate ways. Gil wanders around the city trying to find his way back.  A classic car from the past pulls up and stops. The occupants encourage him to take a ride with him, so he climbs in for fun, drinks, and the time of his life. They arrive at a party, and low and behold, he’s been transported back into 1920 meeting the people he has admired his entire life. When he returns to reality, his fiancee thinks he has a brain tumor. Nevertheless, each night he goes back, and when the clock strikes midnight, his ride returns for another adventure.

The story is filled with wonderful themes, and for me as an author, I laughed, oohed, and awed, over some stellar lines.  When Gil asks Hemingway to read his book, he replies, “If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing, and if it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.” 

However, the most poignant part of the movie is the theme that those who are nostalgic about former eras, thinking they were better than the present, are misguided.  Michael Sheen, who plays a know-it-all vying for the affections of Gil’s girlfriend, states this one spot-on statement.

“Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

Of course, as a writer of historical romances, and understanding the need for women who read them, it is quite true. The magic realization is that each generation feels the same. A woman that Gil falls for in the 1920’s, dreams about living in the Belle Epoque time period (the overlapping era of Victorian and Edwardian). That generation probably fantasized about the Regency era.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie thoroughly. It was lighthearted, thought provoking, and some of the lines were diamonds.  Woody Allen is a genius at times, and his multiple awards for the screenplay were well deserved.

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