Thursday, October 4, 2012

What I Watched the Other Night: MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, written and directed by Woody Allen

I know I'm probably one of the last remaining people in the world who HASN'T seen this film, but that oversight has been corrected. This is now, officially, my favorite Woody Allen movie.

I've never been to Paris, but this movie seems almost as good as the real thing. My only quibble is Owen Wilson - an actor I'm not completely taken with. But, okay, I can tolerate him in this luscious petit-four of a movie - Woody Allen's romantic ode to one of the most gorgeous cities in the world.

Woody Allen and Owen Wilson on set

Wilson plays Gil Pender  - a part, I'm thinking, Wood Allen himself would have played in the old days. He's a nebbishy kind of guy (which I must say, in reality, can get kind of annoying) who still hasn't made all his dreams come true. (Though one gets the impression that he is happy enough.)

Gil is a successful Hollywood writer currently working on a manuscript for his first novel. He is inspired by Paris in the rain. But a Paris of a different era, Paris in the 20's is what turns Gil on. Paris when artists and writers toiled by day, partied by night and got ready to leave their indelible marks on history.

Rachel McAdams plays Gil's fiancee Inez,  a spoiled young woman of the sort who feels entitled to a certain way of life and who does not happily indulge her fiance's whims. She is also, between you and me, a bit of a nag.

The couple is in Paris with her parents who are traveling on business. The parents are played to absolute obnoxious perfection by Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy. It is abundantly clear from whence Inez's attitude and view of life springs. The well-to-do parents, by the way, are not thrilled with the idea of having Gil - an obvious liberal with ideas - for a son-in-law. In fact, the parents are not thrilled with much of anything, not even the romantic city of lights. They are seasoned travelers who have decided that they will no longer be 'impressed',

Gil tries to urge Inez to share his love of the city - the city of the past as well as the present - though she would rather spend the day being lectured to by her pretentious (and pedantic) friends.

Okay, so here's the plot in a nutshell: One night Gil goes off walking by himself, to absorb Paris on his own terms, if possible. Ah, but Paris is having none of that, Paris must be absorbed on her terms. At midnight, in a back alley somewhere while Gil pauses to muse, a car comes out of the darkness and stops to pick him up.

Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Inside are the Fitzgeralds who seem pleased and not at all surprised by Gil's company.

And so the adventure begins.

Somehow, Gil is transported back in time on that same block at the stroke of midnight over the next few days. And this is where the film gets most interesting - since it has been cast superbly in these secondary parts. All are played delightfully, as if life in the twenties were all a song and dance and pithy  philosophical discussion in between glasses of champagne. Well, actually, maybe it was.

A car full of 20's notables.

Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson

The only change I would have made to this secondary cast is this: I might have cast Audrey Tatou instead of Marion Cotillard who seems a bit too sophisticated to be interested in a nebbish (even a likable nebbish) like Gil Pender. But again, that's a minor, minor quibble. Cotillard plays Gil's time travel love interest.

Gil, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein.

My favorites in the cast are Corey Stoll (with a full head of hair) as Ernest Hemingway. He is perfection as an introspective man given to spouting philosophical platitudes apparently quoted from his books.

As Hemingway he exudes manly physical strength and sex appeal, while speaking mostly in gibberish. He is wonderful.

I also love Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, but then, it's always hard not to like Kathy Bates in anything she does. She is a treasure who, if not for her weight, would probably work lots more. It's a shame that Hollywood can't figure out that Bates is a beautiful talented woman who just happens not to wear a size 2 but so what.

Salvadore Dali charming anyone and everyone who drops by.

Adrien Brody as a young Salvadore Dali almost steals the picture. He is on screen for only a few scenes, but he is memorable and the camera loves him.

Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald too, are played to perfection by Alison Pill and Tim Hiddleston.

I also love the guy who plays Cole Porter (Yves Heck) though he doesn't have much to do but sing one of his songs at the piano

Okay, so who does Gil meet in these nightly spins into the past?

F. Scott Fitzgerald
Zelda Fitzgerald
Cole Porter
Ernest Hemingway
Gertrude Stein
Alice B. Toklas
Luis Bunel
Man Ray
Salvadore Dali
Pablo Picasso
T.S. Eliot
Henri Matisse
Josephine Baker
...and others of that era who appear to be having a grand old time.

Speaking of which, time as we know, has an odd sense of humor and Woody Allen hasn't forgotten that. Near the end we get a couple of surprises which almost don't register until after the movie is over and you have the time to think about  them.

For the few of you haven't seen this lovely and oh-so-lyrical film, I say: drop everything and get your hands on the DVD. I believe this will be the first and only Woody Allen film I will actually buy and add to my personal library.

To view the trailer, please use this link.

(All the photos I've used in this post have been culled from various film sites online. I intend no copyright infringement and will remove any photo if the owner requests it. This post is purely for entertainment purposes.)

This poster that I found online has a bit of the wistful flavor of the film and Owen Wilson's part in it.


  1. Hi, I'm the one directly behind you in the line labeled "Yet to Have Watched Evening in Paris But Has High Hopes of Doing So." After reading your delightful review, it's "RedBox Online Reservations" here I come! P.S. Thank you!

  2. I enjoyed this movie and would rate it at least as one of the best by Woody Allen. How fun it must have been to have done the casting for this!

  3. Yvette - Like you, once I finally saw this film I instantly bought the DVD. I'd thought Woody's best work was behind him (and not for the first time)...wrong again.

    Great write-up, and I agree on so many points - including Corey Stoll's fabulous and clever Hemingway.

    And I don't want to forget to mention that I love the "Midnight in Paris" poster you featured - really captures the film's magic.

  4. Excellent review, Yvette! I also loved this movie, even though I am definitely NOT an Owen Wilson fan --lol!

  5. I was more than disappointed to have to watch Owen Wilson in this. I really do not care for him at all but loved the film and loved the actors who played Dali and Hemingway. Such a fun film. Thank you for reminding me about it again! Pam

  6. Sparkle, m'dear, you are very welcome. I hope you will enjoy the movie as much as I did. This is one instance where the prevailing opinion was correct. It's a wonderful movie.

  7. Oh Mark, I would have loved to do the casting for this. The secondary cast is mostly right on target. Imagine being paid to work in Paris!!??

  8. Hi Eve, I stumbled over that poster and thought it hit just the right note.

    Allen seems to be still working at the top of his form. I, for one, am glad he no longer appears in his films.

  9. Pat: Who is? The poor guy is just not star material, I'm afraid.I'm trying to recast the role in my mind at the moment and coming up blank. I'll give it more thought tomorrow. :)

  10. You're welcome, Pam. Poor Owen Wilson is not getting any love from us tonight. :)

  11. Hello Yvette:
    This very comprehensive review has encouraged us to reconsider a film which previously, for a variety of reasons, we had dismissed.

    WE have never actually been very enamoured of Woody Allen - time for a rethink!

  12. Well, how about that for serendipity Yvette - yesterday (4 October) was my birthday and what did I get given? This very same Woody film - I decided not to read past your first paragraph until I watch it over the weekend and will get back to you you then if I may - but I'm so glad you liked it, I'm really looking forward to it now!

  13. Thanks for the wonderful comment re: Kathy Bates. She is terrific!!! I must look for this movie. Dee

  14. Jane and Lance: I think you will both be pleasantly surprised if you throw caution to the winds and view this film. :)

    If you do, please let us know what you thought.

  15. Belated Happy Birthday good wishes to you, Sergio!! And what a terrific present to receive. You will love this film. I can almost guarantee it.

    Let us know!

  16. You're welcome, Gram. I think Kathy Bates is brilliant and one of our most under-utilized actors.

    I hope you enjoy the film!

  17. Yvette, I won't deny that MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (MiP) had me at "Adrien Brody," but in addition to Brody's deliciously adorable scenes as a funny, endearing young Salvador Dali, I think MiP is one of Woody Allen's most entertaining movies in years, with a witty and charming script, and a truly marvelous cast! While Owen Wilson wouldn't have been my first choice in the lead, I must say I found him to be a most appealing Woody manque. Also, I agree with you that Kathy Bates needs to be in more films; not every actress needs to be a sylph!

    Having said that, Yvette, have you ever seen Allen's SHADOWS AND FOG? I've always felt it was underrated, and anyone who loves women with voluptuous curves MUST see the scene with the lovely ladies of negotiable affections, as our Kathy looks gorgeous! Anyway, I loved your post and the wonderful pictures, especially that last poster; I like its tender watercolor feel!

  18. Kathy Bates is wonderful, no question about that.

    I enjoyed this movie, perhaps not as enthusiastically as others, but given this rave review, I think I'll rewatch it.

    My comment is about Corey Stoll, who portrayed Hemingway superbly. I have a special regard for him, since I knew him when he was a young boy, with delightful blond curly hair and big rosy cheeks. (I knew his parents.)

    And then I saw him once as a teen-ager at an event. He was big, and hadn't slimmed down yet, still have blond curly locks and rosy cheeks -- and, I was told, he was studying acting.

    And then I saw him on a Law and Order L.A. series, where he was excellent and then on a few other TV shows. (His hair loss took me aback.)

    And then, surprisingly, as Hemingway, with lots of hair, playing the author so well.

    Then I read an interview with him, in which he reported that he read everything by Hemingway before he played the part. He also critiqued the writer's attitudes, with which he did not agree. I was so glad to see the good acting and thinking of someone whom I had known so long ago as a little cherub.

  19. I haven't seen SHADOWS AND FOG, Dorian. Is it one of Woody's dramas?
    All gloom and doom?

    Kathy Bates is in it?

    I'll take a look on your say-so, no matter what. Just to see. :)

    I knew you must have seen this because of Adrian. He is SO wonderful as Dali - I wish he'd had more scenes.

    Thanks for liking my post - high praise from a film maven like yourself. :)

  20. What a great story, Kathy! You should write to him and let him know how much we loved him as Hemingway. :)

    I didn't know who he was, but I sat up and paid attention when he came on screen. For sure.


  21. Yvette, if I knew where to write to Corey Stoll, I would. (Of course, I could ask his parents.)

    Angela Savage, an Australian writer and blogger, raved about Corey's performance on her blog, too.

    Yes, blond curly locks and big, rosy cheeks. And he was a happy, extroverted little boy, running and leaping and yelling all over the place. Lots of fun.

    And similar in high school, too.

    When I saw him on a TV show, grown up, thin, sans hair, I could not believe it was the same person. But then I saw something in his face like his father's and I knew he was the same person.

  22. Yvette, I won't deny that I'm primarily a fan of Woody Allen's "early funny (films)" as opposed to his more downbeat Bergman-esque dramas such as INTERIORS, et al. SHADOWS AND FOG was definitely more serious than his comedies, but there were enough wry comedic moments to grab my attention, as in the aforementioned cathouse scene with Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, and John Cusack, among others. And I'm with you: I wouldn't have complained if our charming scene-stealer Adrien Brody had gotten even MORE scenes to steal! :-) Heck, I'd love to see Brody in more great comedies, with or without Woody Allen at the helm! Anyway, Yvette, as always, you have excellent taste in movies!

  23. Oh, I'd speak to his parents, Kathy. Just say you loved his performance and wanted to let him know. They couldn't object to that. :)

  24. Thanks, Dorian. I loved this movie. And I will take a look at SHADOWS AND FOG. I think I have excellent taste in movies too. Ha!

    I do remember a Woody Allen movie set in...Sweden? It was a historical thing that reminded me of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. Do you know which one I mean? I saw that ages ago and didn't hate it.


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