The last movie I probably reviewed on here was “Delovely,” and just like it, “Midnight in Paris” was graciously brought over by my cousin. That it’s a Woody Allen didn’t really affect me either way; my immediate family doesn’t like Woody Allen, so I’ve never watched him – subsequently I have no opinion on him either way, excluding that my cousin Hunter does the best impression of him EVER! So that it was an “atypical Woody Allen film” really didn’t mean much to me. Maybe it means I come in with a clean slate, maybe it means I’m uneducated, who knows.
The concept of the film – a struggling writer finds he can escape to 1920s Paris and its many expats he admires at the stroke of midnight – didn’t do a whole lot for me, but it’s actually pretty well done in this. Sort of. We’ll get there.
The first several minutes of the film are establishing shots of all the greatest sites in Paris. It’s beautifully done and the whole film is quite luxurious to the eyes. So points there. But as soon as there is dialogue….
We get Gill, played by Owen Wilson, whom I’ve never really cared for. And he’s talking about Paris in the rain with his fiance Inez, played by Rachel McAdams. But you know what I’m going to call her? Queen Bitch, monarch of all the bitches. Not even being able to see her, as the credits are still rolling on a black screen, I had no notion that this woman would be so unremittingly EVIL. I was all prepared to like her, as you really should in any film. But don’t bother. Because she is a c-word that I’d get a scolding for if my parents saw this review.
For reasons that are ENTIRELY mysterious, bashful Gill – a successful screenwriter but self-professed Hollywood hack – is engaged to Inez, whose occupation seems to be limited to being a frigged whore of a woman. She’s a spoiled little princess, and her Daddy is taking the couple on this trip, along with Mom – from whom Inez learned all her finest skills of anal villainy. Which I swear is a curse in some form of English – because Business. Also, he’s highly conservative ,and Gill mocks him for it in none too subtle a fashion. And holy crap, Woody, think we can’t tell your political bias? IT’s a juvenile trick. I was unimpressed.
Then we meet Paul, who is the Lord Jesus Christ of all Douchebags. He thinks he is fucking GOD. His wife Carol is okay. Inez has a lady boner for him and gladly derides her FIANCE, both in front of her parents and her friends. GILL, WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU MARRYING THIS WOMAN!? I will say this a great deal throughout the film. Despite his best efforts, Gill is roped into a trip to Versailles with the Worst Couple in History, where Paul prattles on in properly dickish behavior and Inez flirts so heavily she might as well go on her knees and blow him. I mean seriously. Gill isn’t the greatest either, but he’s our protagonist and he’s the only one we’ve got, so let’s just deal with it.
This is maybe eight minutes into the film. My cheek was resting on my fist as I wondered why on EARTH Woody Allen thought it was a stroke of genius to make all of his characters totally and completely unlikable. Again, more on this later….But regardless, at this point I started texting Hanna with this warning: “This film had better improve, or I’m going to HATE IT.”
Paul continues to be a douche canoe, and Inez decides to ditch her fiance to go dancing with the totally obviously happy couple. I’m usually okay this. Couples should get to do activities apart. But when she just REVILES Gill for not sharing her shallow pass-times and not equally wanting Paul’s manhood to slap all over his face, she becomes intolerable. So our plucky little hero wanders Paris, slightly drunk, and at the stroke of midnight, is pulled into a 1920s style car. And what do you know, he’s suddenly at a party! With Cole porter on the piano and Zelda Fitzgerald offering him drinks!
I was still pretty blase by this point. The one thing that did pique my interest is that was the best Cole Porter I’ve ever seen. Far and away a closer match physically and vocally than Kevin Kline or Cary Grant. And of course Gill gets to baffle at talking with F. Scott Fitzgerald and ZOMG, it’s 1920, and all that sort of set up stuff always annoys me. So I still sat there, face iron, going, “This movie needs to get better right now.”
….and it did. If you see this movie for no other reason than Ernest Hemingway, it’s time well spent. Actually, the best parts were all the past characters, they were just so fun and lively. But there’s too many of them, it’s like a ceaseless parade of name dropping and “HOLY CRAP, THIS PERSON IS FAMOUS!” so we don’t get to spend enough time on any on and enjoy them.
Of course, Gill stumbles back into the present, suitably dazed and Inez continues to emasculate him and lust over Paul. And THAT is the problem. Every damn time we have to deal with the people in the modern world, it is INTOLERABLE. Woody, I get it. You’re trying to make us feel bad for Gill, who, FYI, is a spineless little git. But NO ONE is like this. I get it’s bordering satirical, it’s larger than life in its horribleness – but you can’t do that on one side of the scale and make all the other characters be perfectly sane and normal. NO ONE is surrounded by a group of ego-maniacal lunatics unless they’re in a mental institution! HITLER was not this unlikable! (I am seriously not overstating this. Hitler was the root of all evil, but at least he was good to his dogs. Inez and her family and friends probably drink the blood of puppies and spit on the graves of our fallen in battle) I really don’t want to beat this dead horse, so I’m going to try and sum up, because the movie follows a pretty predictable pattern from here on out:
HOLY SHIT, 2010’S AWFUL! Gill falls in love with Girl in 20s. Briefly, ACTUAL HUMAN BEING surfaces in modern Paris and if you have any eye for film clichés, you know who Gill’s going to end up with. He pops back and forth and debates his life. There are lots of near misses and serendipity and just crap you could see coming from a million miles away.
And then here’s where the movie has its one ray of actual….brilliance. Er, no. That’s too generous. Of DEPTH. It teeters between depth and you’re just fucking with me now. But it’s sort of deep….
The girl Gill loves in the 1920s, Andrea, prefers La Belle Époque (late 1800s to WWI), and what do you know, they manage to get there in basically the same way he’s gotten to the Roaring Twenties. I kind of hit my head at this point, but….they managed to pull this out of the gutter. Andrea hobnob with all of her idles the same way Gill has been with his, and she suggests they never return. He finally comes clean about being from the future – which she takes pretty well, but considering their situation, stranger things have happened – and that staying is a horrible idea. And the lesson of the movie is learned: we may think we’d be happier in a different era, but it’s nonsense. We must live in the time we’re given, because to someone else, it’s the best time in human history, and every era has its beauty. This is a feeling I can sympathize with (though I’m more a girl of the 30s), but I also dislike the romantic notion of a “simpler time.” But Gill learns what Andrea has not, and she chooses to stay. I imagine she’ll probably find herself back in the 1920s accidentally as Gill does in his own era, but he stays just long enough to figure out – BIG FREAKING DUH – Inez is play Hide the Sausage with Paul.
I could go over the last tortuous scenes of sheer, baffling and depressing human stupidity and shallowness that follows. But why do that to you? Why do that to myself. Suffice to say that Gill and Inez finally – at last and praise Jesus – break up, and he chooses to remain in Paris and pursue the literary career of his dreams. And as it begins to rain, he runs into That Girl We Mentioned Before, Hopefully You Were Paying Attention. And they both agree that Paris is at its most beautiful in the rain, and they walk off together – presumably to start a human relationship, we hope. Otherwise, Gill is going to continue that Valium addiction he basically admits to. And you have to wonder if at least some of the participants in this film didn’t need to get a little buzzed to get through some of its schlock at any given point.
So why watch this movie, Emily? I hear you asking. I didn’t really pay attention, but I think it won for cinematography or something like that – and it deserves it. This film is a feast for the eyes, and that is one of the happy and unique things about cinema. Every era its brought to sparkling brilliance, and you’ll be a little gobsmacked at its beauty. The costumes blend with it perfectly in such a delightful array as to stun the senses. So, you know, if that’s your thing – see the film.
Otherwise? No. Parts of it are interesting, fun, and thought-provoking. Most of it makes me want to cut out my own tongue with a rusty spoon. If that seems like a fair trade to you, go for it. But otherwise, don’t bother.
Overall filming quality: 10 (as I said, gorgeous)
Acting: 8.5 (Some of the actors did really well in their historic roles. Certainly no one sucked. But other than for Hemingway, I don’t know that I’d be handing out any Oscars for anyone)
Story: 3 (While they managed to expertly navigate a premise I usually find weak and trite, the polar divisions were disgusting and the clichés slathered all over the place)
Overall score: 7.16
C-. I can see why it was nominated for some Oscars, but where it sucks, it sucks BALLS.