Midnight in Paris
(OLD REVIEW) This movie is a sheer delight from beginning to end. It’s the best from Woody Allen in a long time, and that includes some pretty good ones lately. Briefly, Owen Wilson (in the sort of Woody part) finds that at midnight he can return to what he thinks of as the Golden Age, the Roaring Twenties in Paris. He is a writer who aspires to better things than the movies he has been hacking out. He meets all of his expatriate idols: Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, plus other luminaries like Dali, Man Ray, Josephine Baker, Picasso, Cole Porter. He’s in absolute heaven! Imagine, Gertrude Stein is reading and critiquing your novel, making suggestions, encouraging you! He also meets and falls for Adriana (Marion Cotillard), an artist, which complicates things, since he’s engaged to Ms. Wrong (Rachel McAdams) in the present day. It turns out that she doesn’t think the ‘20s are so special. For her, the Golden Age was the one we know as the “Gilded Age,” the 1890s. They visit that era, and she is as enchanted by it as he is of her world. They meet Gauguin, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec, who all agree that the Golden Age was the Renaissance. She decides to stay in the ‘90s.
So the message is that we all, or most of us anyway, have an era we admire. It might be one we actually lived through, or not. For most of us aging Boomers it’s probably the ‘60s … but maybe the ‘20s, like Owen, or maybe some other age. (I’ve always sort of liked the ‘40s. Yeah, I know there was that little detail of World War II, but the music was great!)
There’s not only the element of thinking your personal Golden Age was an exciting and stimulating time to be alive, but I also think there’s something else, which is that we look at the present, no matter what our present it, and think of some time before everything went to shit. Doesn’t it often look that way to you? Isn’t 2011 pretty fucked up in a lot of ways?
There is one thing I might have changed. Owen meets another girl, in the present day, running a nostalgia shop that sells old gramophones and 78 rpm records of Cole Porter and others. He breaks up with Ms. Wrong, and at the end he meets the new girl again, and finds she loves walking in the rain in Paris as much as he does. So how about another two minutes of film, where she might drop a hint that she might be from his future, and regards 2011 as the time before it all went to shit … Well, it’s an idea.