← Back to Reviews

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris
2011, Woody Allen

You know what my problem with Woody Allen's films really are? The damn characters. I try so hard, I really do, every time I watch a Woody film, to like it. Because everyone else always seems to really like his stuff. Not just regular Joe Schmoe's, either - but people whose opinion I generally really respect and stuff.

It's all an exercise in futility, though, because I can't do it. They always start out on the right foot, too - in this case, the main couple, Gil and Inez (played by Owen Wilson and Rachael McAdams) start out pretty well. The upper-class, poetic white Americans on Holiday in Paris with their parents shortly before they tie the knot - their chemistry and interactions came off cute and casually realistic to me. Sure, they were pretentious and intimidating, but then, there wasn't anything overly unrealistic or grating about them at first glance.

I don't think it's as simple as, "I hate Woody Allen films because his characters are pretentious and unrealistic or annoying and ridiculous" - I have a large amount of suspension of disbelief, and I can often get lost in the story telling or suspense or beautiful imagery so that any other qualms I might have would melt away. I think the thing that really bugs me is that I always feel like Woody Allen's characters are being sold to me - almost like he's putting them on an ornate, delicate platter for me to observe and size up. It's like I look at the life of a typical Woody Allen character and I know it's not realistic, but I'm supposed to think it is because there's a sign right under the platter that says, "This is how humans really behave! This is how people really talk!" and I'm like, "No, they really, really don't."

In fact, I probably wouldn't have watched this at all, but the roaring 20's/Fitzgerald storyline appealed to me a lot, and I knew it'd probably look pretty, if anything. And I was right. There's actually two parallel stories being told here: one, Owen Wilson is engaged to Rachael McAdams and they are vacationing in Paris, supposedly antique shopping for their house and also doing typical Paris-tourist stuff. Owen Wilson's character is also a Hollywood screenwriter who's been working on a novel; 2, the roaring 20's/Fitzgerald storyline, which comes about because Owen Wilson somehow manages to travel back in time when he's out strolling the streets of Paris after midnight half-lit. He gets to meet all his icons: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, etc. At first, I thought we were supposed to believe he was hallucinating the whole thing, but about halfway through the film I figured out you were supposed to actually believe he was traveling through time - ok, whatever, I didn't much care if it was make-believe or not, because really what you're supposed to be focusing on is Wilson's adventures with his favorite contemporary writers and how it makes him start to question the direction his life is taking. This was the most interesting part of the whole story. I just wish the whole thing had been told in this old-timey golden age rather than skipping ahead and making me suffer through the present-day storyline which only managed to make me roll my eyes so much I feared they'd be stuck that way. I mean, the golden age characters were kind of Woody-ridiculous, too, but I was a lot more forgiving of them because they looked so pretty and I didn't take it seriously - like, they were supposed to be sort of silly and ridiculous. Plus, the main girl he falls in love with, Adrianna (supposedly Picasso's girl) was absolutely charming and pretty easy on the eyes, too. The story was much better when she was apart of it.

Taking all of this into account, I'd say this is probably one Woody Allen film that wasn't a complete failure, but it still makes me extremely wary of anything else with his name on it. Oh well.