Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Midnight In Paris

I missed this Woody Allen film in the theaters but caught it the other night on Blu-Ray. It's been a while since I have so loved and so hated different parts of a movie. (Spoilers ahead.)

The opening montage was as long and deep a love ode to Paris as any Allen has created for New York. I didn't think he would ever give any other city so much affection, but I was happy he did, because his city shots are always wonderful, and I absolutely adore Paris.

Then, unfortunately, we cut to the present-day action. Owen Wilson did a fine job of playing Gil, who was really just Woody Allen playing himself, and of course Wilson was more attractive than Allen. Rachel McAdams, as his fiance, Inez, was gorgeous, but she was also completely shallow and cardboard, as cheap a shot as Allen has ever taken at a major character. Her father and mother were worse. At several points during the present-day scenes, I rose from my chair to leave, then sat again. I hated those scenes so much--their horrible emotional content, their cheap shots, the fact that they clearly conveyed that Wilson and McAdams would never have been together--that I could not understand why anyone had liked the film.

Fortunately, the journeys to the past began, and the interludes with Inez and family shrank, and then I was hooked.

Allen's take on the writer and artist scene of Paris in the '20s was exactly as mythical and overblown as our fantasies of it. He caught perfectly the popular view of that time, in which every night is a party full of great figures, with more great men and women always available in the restaurant around the corner. The past characters were, in a much more pleasant way, as cardboard as the present-day ones, but Allen's love for those great artists made them lovable for us.

In the end, I wished I could have cut McAdams and family and watched only Wilson's present-day search for himself and his budding romance, then focused on the past.

In the end, the movie was saying what Woody Allen so often says: great art, most of which is in the past, is what most nourishes us, and when we live in and of and for art, in our actions and most importantly our romances, then we are most alive.

Despite the early present-day scenes, on balance I have to recommend Midnight In Paris strongly.

Just plan to hate parts of it.

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