My mother came out to visit this week, so as per our longstanding traditions we decided to watch a movie. She didn’t bring any with her this time, so we hit up a local Redbox to get something that we both might enjoy. As is the way of things, mom wanted to rent War Horse, which I have absolutely no desire to see, and I was learning toward Tower Heist, which seemed so terrible it may actually emerge out of the other side of watchable. What ended up happening was that mom said something along the lines of “oh whoops I already pushed the buttons” and instead we ended up watching Midnight in Paris.
Mom argued that because it had Owen Wilson in it, I was going to absolutely LOVE this film for some reason she was never fully able to explain to me. I argued… well, I didn’t actually argue, per se. After all, she had already pushed the buttons. There was nothing left to do but to pop this pretentious sounding POS into my XBOX and see how deep this rabbit hole will go. It ended just above apathy, for me, so I guess it could have been worse.
It turns out Midnight in Paris is a romantic comedy film about nostalgia and how terrible everything was in the past. Or maybe I’m being a cynic again? Let’s see.
Wilson plays Gil, who is a guy who appears to be gifted in writing movie scripts back in the United States. He hates the job, though, and has plans to release a nigh unreadable novel upon the world featuring a main character who works in a nostalgia shop, full of throwbacks to the 1920s, which Gil sees as the GOLDEN AGE of all existence. At the start of the film, Gil, along with his terrible fiance, Inez (Rachel McAdams) have tagged along with her parents, who are in Paris for a business trip. Gil, as a liberal so-and-so is not very popular with her parents, because dammit, Tea Party Republicans are GOOD PEOPLE, OKAY!?!?
Anyway, Gil absolutely loves Paris, what because of the beauty and the history and all that crap that I never really paid attention to, and wants to move to the city after he gets married. Inez disagrees, and spends most of the film vocally telling him he is terrible in order for him to just go back to the good ol’ US of A and pound out what is probably unwatchable movies, instead of working on his unreadable book. She likes the money, you see. She also dislikes how Gil seems obsessed with the past.
After some horrible lectures from a douchebag, Gil wanders home one night and at midnight, something weird happens. A car picks him up, and seemingly transports him to Paris in the 1920s, where he meets a metric fuck ton of authors, painters, forward thinkers and progressives from Paris’ supposed golden age. As this is a romantic comedy, Gil quickly falls for Adriana (Marion Cotillard), whose claim to fame is having been the other woman in just about every famous artist love triangle in Paris.
First off, Wilson does a pretty good job playing a bewildered author, though he very quickly moves from “what is going on I don’t even know” to “I’m just going to roll with this.”
A lot of the authors Gil meets in his travels I know in passing, what because of a long career spent as an English major. Hemmingway (Corey Stoll) is delightfully dark, and Zelda Fitzgerald (Alison Pill) is suitably nuts. Still, there were times when I had absolutely no idea who Gil was meeting and had hit up wikipedia for a reminder. It definitely helps knowing who these people are. Without that, the film would have definitely lost my ability to give a shit. It helps to know that Zelda Fitzgerald was later institutionalized, or that Picasso was already married, or about half of the people in the damn city who make vague references to famous work we’re supposed to recognize or ramble on about rhinoceroses.
The point the film was trying to make, which is essentially about how things were actually pretty lousy in the past, is offered to us point blank, with little finesse. At one point Gil actually says something along the lines of “OH HEY I GET IT NOW WOW WHAT A STARTLING INSIGHT” and then just goes off for a while. The bottom line? This film was entertaining, but I’m not sure how much it would be if I was completely ignorant about the authors and painters who were featured in the film.
So maybe it was a wee bit pretentious. Ah well. Tower Heist was probably the wrong kind of bad anyway.