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Now Playing: The Tree of Life and Midnight in Paris

The Tree of Life
dir. Terrence Malick, 2011, USA

Rating: 6.9

Midnight in Paris
dir. Woody Allen, 2011, USA/France

Rating: 8.5

The bottom line: Movies about guys walking with their hands in their pockets!

Terrence Malick and Woody Allen are both directors who came of age in the 1970s, concurrently with but quite apart from Hollywood’s beloved Film School Generation (Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Scorsese, De Palma, et al). Unlike their more commercially-minded countrymen, neither Allen nor Malick studied film production at a four-year university, both distinguished themselves by writing their own scripts and both showed a greater adherence to classical notions of “high art” in terms of both the great cinema of the past and, more importantly, the other arts – literature in Allen’s case, philosophy and painting in Malick’s. (Also, neither Malick nor Allen sported beards!) In the ensuing decades the two have come to represent polar opposite approaches to how an artistically ambitious American filmmaker can live and work; Malick’s output has been legendarily sparse (only five released movies in as many decades) where Allen’s annual releases (now totaling forty-one) have become as dependable as the turning of the earth. This has led to a problematic categorization of Allen as a businesslike journeyman, a talented comic writer but sloppy visual stylist who is indifferent to actors, someone who works compulsively to stave off a fear of death. By contrast, Malick’s advocates view him as the contemporary cinema’s great Romantic artist, a consummate perfectionist in the technical sense who is nonetheless open to improvisational whims, someone who only works when and if the inspiration strikes.

The sad reality is that since the release of Days of Heaven in 1978, Malick’s work has become increasingly bloated and pretentious, a state of affairs that hits a remarkable, dizzying, frustrating new high with The Tree of Life. Although Malick’s films have always featured de-centered narratives in favor of rapturous imagery, the balance here has shifted beyond all reason; Malick and his great cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have captured some of the most magisterial images in contemporary movies (a volcano erupts, CGI dinosaurs wander a primordial landscape, a child chases soap bubbles on a well-manicured lawn) but, after an amazing first hour, the disappointing sense begins to settle in that they will fail to acquire the cumulative power necessary for the kind of transcendental payoff one is expecting. The narrative fragments (a grown man roams the modern world musing on his childhood in rural Texas as well as the creation of the universe) obstinately refuse to become anything more than broken shards and are held together only by the glue of Malick’s copious voice over narration, which by now is approaching self-parody in its new-agey pseudo-profundity: “There are two ways through life: the way of nature, and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.”

This brings us to the movie’s real problem: even more so than The New World, there is an abiding sense of looseness and wastefulness about The Tree of Life. It feels like a film made by a man with an unlimited amount of freedom, as if Malick had all the time, money and resources in the world to shoot all the footage he wanted and then spent years massaging that mountain of footage into its final shape. The best comparison I can make is with Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day, another loose, baggy monster created by a secretive, reclusive genius that dazzled in its early stages before painfully spiraling into seemingly endless tedium. And while Malick’s supporters are quick to point out that “loose” working methods have always been his modus operandi, that all of his movies are about poetic feeling more than intellectual understanding and yadda, yadda, yadda, the sense of rigor that characterized Badlands and Days of Heaven is long gone. The idea that Malick will ever again make a film as tight, compressed or short as those earlier hour and a half long masterpieces seems increasingly unlikely, even as Malick’s rate of production dramatically increases (he already has one new movie in the can and has reportedly begun work on at least one after that).

I don’t know or care whether The Tree of Life is an “autobiographical” film as some of its most passionate defenders are claiming, which to them I suppose makes it inherently brave. I do admire it for individual moments of beauty, Brad Pitt’s scary performance as the tough love father and Malick’s overall ambition and foolhardiness, qualities in short supply in today’s Hollywood. But I didn’t feel a sense of cosmic wonder while watching it, the interconnectedness of “all things” that seems Malick’s overarching goal, one that he appears to be laboring awfully hard to achieve. For a more effortlessly cosmic cinematic experience I think I’ll see again Pedro Costa’s lo-fi, black and white Change Nothing, a documentary about a singer that conjures up the wonders of creation without the digital dinosaurs.

Woody Allen has long had his pretentious side (the complaint that his Bergman influenced dramas were inferior to his “earlier, funnier work” became so ubiquitous that he actually worked it into Husbands and Wives in 1992) but his recent attempts to rebrand himself as a European filmmaker have actually produced some of the fleetest movies of his career; 2005’s London-set Match Point and 2008’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona were simultaneously mature without being pretentious, succeeding as both penetrating character studies and nimble storytelling. If critics and fans (including me) have taken Allen’s best recent films for granted, it is likely because they’ve been sandwiched between lesser works that tend to make us judge Woody Allen not by his greatest hits but by his overall batting average. I suspect that will change with the release of Midnight in Paris, a delightful comic valentine to the film’s title city that ranks among the best and most imaginative movies Allen has ever made.

Like the short stories of Allen’s hero S.J. Perelman, the premise of Midnight is Paris is simple and irresistibly clever, and Allen executes the clean narrative arc to perfection: Gil (Owen Wilson) is a successful Hollywood screenwriter vacationing in Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. The city’s romantic aura inspires him to contemplate moving there permanently and finally realize his ambition of becoming a serious novelist. These plans don’t square with the more pragmatic Inez who finds herself spending more and more time with a former college professor, an insufferable know-it-all (in a long line of similar Allen pedants) deliciously played by Michael Sheen. Gil meanwhile finds himself magically transported back to the Golden Age of Paris in the 1920s where he hobnobs with the world’s artistic élite and falls for Adrianna (a very lovely Marion Cotillard), a fashion designer and muse to Picasso and Hemingway. To give away more of the plot would be criminal but suffice to say that the film’s sweetness of tone is perfectly balanced by its cautionary notes about the dangers of idealizing the past. Crucially, one also feels that this latter aspect contains a healthy amount of self-criticism for its writer/director, something that can’t often be said of a Woody Allen film. Also important is that the film’s funniest and most entertaining conceits (like Adrien Brody’s inspired cameo as Salvador Dali) serve to effectively prevent it from becoming the academic exercise it might have in other hands.

The real masterstroke of Midnight in Paris though, and a risky one that could have backfired, is the casting of Owen Wilson as Gil. While it has become increasingly common for the now elderly Allen to cast younger actors to play the part of an “Allen surrogate” in the lead role, this has often been a problematic strategy; most of these actors (from John Cusack to Edward Norton to Kenneth Branagh) end up essentially imitating Allen’s familiar stammering-intellectual-nebbish speech patterns. Wilson, however, slows down Allen’s dialogue to fit his own laid-back Texas persona and the result is both hilarious and refreshing. He captures the typical Allen character’s excitability while softening the misanthropy. Check out Gil’s infectious enthusiasm in the short, wonderful scene where he talks to himself while lying in bed at night, amazed at his good fortune. In the end, it’s hard to say if Gil seems more romantic and naïve than the usual Allen protagonist because Allen wrote him that way or because Wilson’s line deliveries makes it feel that way. Regardless, Allen has allowed Wilson (an actor I have occasionally found grating in the past) to display his innate intelligence, sincerity and optimism in a role that he seems born to play. He is absolutely magical. So is the movie.

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

41 responses to “Now Playing: The Tree of Life and Midnight in Paris

  • jilliemae

    The movie IS magical (Midnight in Paris, that is)! I’ve seen most of Allen’s films and after seeing Midnight, I don’t that I’ve been as shocked and delighted from seeing one of his films aside from the first time that I saw Annie Hall.

  • Suzi

    Two me, these two films are the “blockbusters” I want to see this summer in lieu of the surplus of comic-book movies, which are so mediocre they are interchangeable. I appreciate your discussion of both, especially Allen, who is under-appreciated by popular reviewers who don’t recognize his literary influences. I suspect I will like TREE OF LIFE more than you because I like falling into Malick’s visual world and disappearing in the scenes that always seem to be shot during magic hour.

  • michaelgloversmith

    I do love Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line (although my opinion of the last of these dipped slightly after the release of The New World, which I thought was beautiful but sloppy and had the curious effect of making TTRL seem that way to me retroactively). There is a great movie in The Tree of Life trying to get out; nearly all of the ’50s stuff is wondrous. I think he should have left out the origins of the universe scenes and the modern day scenes altogether.

  • citygirlmuses

    Thanks for the great review. I will definitely go see Midnight in Paris. Have you seen The Beginners? Interested if you can review that. Reading your reviews makes me realize how little I know about the history and art of cinema. I love movies and your reviews add so much to that. THANK YOU THANK YOU

  • michaelgloversmith

    Thanks for the kind words, Judi. You will definitely enjoy Midnight in Paris.
    I haven’t seen The Beginners but I will look into it.

  • Top Ten Films of 2011 « White City Cinema

    […] Woody Allen’s best movie in ages tells the story of Gil (a perfectly cast Owen Wilson), a contemporary Hollywood screenwriter who finds himself magically transported back to the Paris of the 1920s, an era he romantically regards as a “golden age.” Once there, he finds himself hobnobbing with his artistic heroes, Picasso and Hemingway, until his love affair with their muse, Adriana, (a splendid Marion Cotillard), makes him realize that everyone would rather be somewhere else. As in The Purple Rose of Cairo, Allen wisely never bothers to explain the fantastical aspects of this time travel scenario (he asks us to just go with them instead) and the whimsical result is one of his fleetest and funniest movies. Allen’s heroes S.J. Perelman and James Thurber would be proud. Full review here. […]

  • Oscarology: 2012 Edition « White City Cinema

    […] already wrote a long, joint review of the following two movies when they first opened in Chicago last […]

  • CIFF 2012: Twenty Most Wanted! « White City Cinema

    […] someone who saw The Thin Red Line five times in the theater, I’ve certainly fallen off the Terrence Malick bandwagon in the wake of The New World and The Tree of Life. And yet I still wouldn’t miss a new film […]

  • My Blog is Three-Years-Old | White City Cinema

    […] Life During Wartime (Solondz, USA, 2010) – 6.9 Pacific Rim (Del Toro, USA, 2013) – 6.9 The Tree of Life (Malick, USA, 2011) – […]

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  • Irfan Makani

    Midnight in Paris is a good movie that embraces the portrayal of doing what you love. Gil, the main character, is caught between a world that asks him to make money and go along with his finance, Inez’s materialistic ambitions, and a world that showcases his dreams along with legends of the past that he has looked him too. Gil finds comfort when he keeps going to the 1920’s and 1890’s. There, he meets various writers that have served as role models for him. I like how the settings, clothing, voices, etc are presented in a way that they are really from back in the day. Adriana serves as Gil’s new love interest whom he meet during his travels to the past. I like how they grew closer as they learn more about eachother. In the end, Gil ends up with the shop clerk, which had been hinted at throughout the movie. I noticed how when Gil and Inez first went to the shop, the clerk was shown checking out Gil. This gave me the idea that she might play a larger role in the movie. It’s cool how Gil is shown with 3 different women throughout the movie, so I’m not sure who would have been his best fit, however Inez was not his true love – that’s for sure. Since Gil didn’t end up with Adriana, perhaps the director was implying that she didn’t really exist and Gil was only dreaming.This movie displays Paris in both current and past tense as one of the world’s most symbolic places.

  • whalen207

    Midnight in Paris (2011) is a little shallower than I would have liked, but was thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. Moments of comedic gold like Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali ranting about rhinoceri, and Owen Wilson doing quite well to avoid the trap of becoming yet another two-bit Woody Allen impersonator both combine to make this film a worthy watch.

    This movie doesn’t delve too deep, but I did observe a few odds-and-ends worth mentioning. Allen’s self-criticism goes extremely far down. Paul, for instance, represents an archetype almost always expressed in Allen’s films: a snobby, pedantic intellectual whose sole purpose seems to be to beat the spunky underdog (usually Allen) down. Paul is quite possibly the ultimate caricature of Allen’s snob archetype, sipping and sniffing wine moments after commenting on the “composition” of a painting. In this film, however, this snob incarnate turns out to be absolutely correct — Gil is firmly stuck in the past, and looking backwards through time with rosy-eyed goggles is more due to people thinking that the grass must be greener on the other side than anything meaningful. Allen isn’t afraid to bust up his own archetype.

    I agree that Wilson did an admirable, if not excellent job playing Allen’s self-insert. His slow, naive, kindhearted Texas personality — or at least typecast — mellowed out Allen’s neurotic, sarcastic stammer. Occasionally one or the other would pierce through the veil: the scene where Gil frantically stammers over a box of his fiance’s stolen jewelry is all Allen, while the scene where Gil calmly tries to justify himself to Inez just after she heatedly screams she’s cheated on him is all Wilson.

    Stark contrasts like that in similar situations definitely take away from a character that’s supposed to be a personality synthesis as opposed to a personality split, but who knows? Gil, like many of the other characters in the film, isn’t explored too deeply. For all we know he could be inflicted with clinical multiple personality disorder and/or schizophrenia… leading to him hallucinating some sort of Gil-and-Ted (or Adriana)’s excellent adventure, prohibition edition. Many moments of the movie make me wish it was lengthier, the cinematography more driven, and the characters more explored — but perhaps that’s the charm of the movie.

    Perhaps it’s nice to just lean back and enjoy Paris in the rain… without having to deeply analyze the meaning of this, or the purpose of that — To have a light comedy you can enjoy in one sitting.

    Other disorganized thoughts:
    – Interesting moments of cinematography and composition (I’m the snob now, Paul!) included constantly painting the private investigator’s face in shadow, and in “washing out” the first glimpses we get of Gil in Paris with bright, bright yellow. As the film goes on I noticed these colors fading, and perhaps a little more grain in the background? Seemed olde-timey.
    – Allen contradicts a lot of his usual stuff in this film, but definitely does not even back down from his criticism of “hollywood hacks” channeled through Gil.
    – I don’t enjoy how Allen writes dialogue. “I can’t understand you, I’m a little drunk.” Hopefully that was just Wilson ad-libbing.
    – It shouldn’t really matter if the time-travel was a dream or not, but there is plenty of evidence to support it: every historical figure being a caricature (Hemingway?), characters from the past talking with vocabulary and grammar from the present, etc.
    – The film seemed distinctly American, though not too Hollywood-y. The only exception I saw to that was the tasteful lack of subtitles.

    • michaelgloversmith

      I don’t know about “shallow” but I agree that it’s a small and simple film. Like I said in class, it’s like a very well-executed short story (as opposed to a “novel” like ANOTHER YEAR or an “essay” like THIS IS NOT A FILM). 10/10

  • Ivona Jesic

    “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen, really fascinating film that I really didn’t want to end and I believe that was the actual idea of the director of this film. Scenes in the movie are happening in the beautiful Paris which really give special rich tone to this movie and make it hard to forget. Maine characters Inez and Gil are in the Paris only at the vacation but that vacation will transform into something bigger and something memorable for whole life. At beginning young couple spend a lot of time together enjoying their vacation but when a former professor and his wife came everything changed because Inez got impressed with professor Paul and started spending more time with him instead of with her fiance. Fortunately, the even first night when Gil and Inez got separated because Gil wanted to go to the hotel he got lost and exciting part of his vacation starts. During the time when Inez was in an affair with Paul, Gil spent time with the greats of the past like Picasso. During the time when he was in past, he met beautiful lady Adriana and fell in love with her. At the end Inez and Gil finally broke up and Gil stayed to live in Paris with Gabrielle who represents Adriana from past now in the future. In addition, this movie is filled with many interesting moments and jokes and one that definitely caught my attention is when Gil gave his book to Gertrude Stein to read and give critic and he said ok here is book it is only 400 pages. Also in this movie a lot of shine and gold color is present which gave this movie special glamorous tone and do not let you stop watching it because everything look impressive.

  • Ivana Jesic

    Movie “ Midnight In Paris” made by Woody Allen is romantic film recorded in Paris otherwise called a city of the love. The movie starts with beautiful pictures of Paris which are showing the beauty of this city. The main character Gil and his fiancee Inez are on vacation in Paris. During that vacation, Gil is working on his journal and he seeks for professional help or someone who will read his journal and give the opinion. During the time that Gil is trying to find someone to read and comment his journal his fiancee is having affair with Paul something that connects Gil and his fiancée and keeps them in the relationship is a fact that Gil is a rich and well-known writer and his fiancee is a very sexy lady. During that vacation in Paris Gil, met lot of celebrities and one of them was Adriana. Adriana is very attractive lady same as Inez. She is leaving in Paris and studied model and she was studying with Coco Chanel. From there she is one of the celebrities or popular ladies in Paris. Between Gil and Adriana love arises from their first meeting but they don’t know that their love is mutual. Gil will found out that Adriana loves him little later when he buy her journal and read it in her journal. From that moment the two of them will start a romance that does not last long. They will be split up because of the disagreement of opinion which was the golden age. In the same day, Gil will break up with his fiancee Inez because she cheated on him. This movie, fortunately, have the happy end when Gill starts the romance with apparently seamless girl Gabrielle who works in a nearby store. I really liked this movie . It is really romantic makes us wish that there is no end of the film. This film is full of unexpected scenes and I just feel sorry that this film does not last a little longer so we can see Gil’s and Gabriel’s life together.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Ivana, this is a good overview of what happens in the film on the level of story but I don’t need a blow-by-blow plot summary in future reports. I’d rather have you analyze what it all _means_ rather than merely tell me what happens. 9/10

  • brad fagan

    Midnight in Paris is a fantasy about the good old days. It is a Woody Allen comedy focusing on Gil, a frustrated Hollywood screenwriter, tagging along with his fiancé and her parents on a first-class business trip— that was obviously being written off as a tax deduction by his ambitious future father in law. Gil and his fiancée Inez are polar opposites. Gil came to Paris to walk in the rain and dream about writing the great American novel; however, Inez sees herself raising a couple of kids in Beverly Hills. The thirty something year old screenwriter and his fiancé are in search of happiness. Gil believes he could rediscover himself in the city of light—as did Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, T. S. Eliot, and Luis Bunuel had done during the early days of the twentieth century. Inez came to Paris to go shopping with her self-centered mother and live in the manner in which she is accustomed.
    Gil spends his evenings wandering around the backstreets of Montmartre, ending up half wasted on the steps of a gothic church— as the church bells announce the coming of another day, an antique Peugeot stops in front of the church, transporting him back in time. Gil returns to the church every evening, just as the clock strikes twelve to hang out with an interesting group of people. Woody Allen’s alter ego finds himself in the Paris of his dreams— as Gertrude Stein introduces Gil to artists, musicians, and writers attending informal parties in her appartment. Gil finds himself having philosophical conversations with Hemmingway, rescuing Zelda Fitzgerald on the banks of the Seine, seducing Adriana in her apartment, meeting Toulouse Lautrec, and chatting with Gauguin and Degas about the Italian Renaissance at the Moulin Rouge; and then Gil discovers Adriana selling antiques in the real world, and falls in love with her— as they listen to Cole Porter and dream of living happily ever after in the twenty-first century.
    Woody Allen allows the viewer to witness life from the vantage point of an inquisitive time traveler. He provides Gil freedom to choose between moving forward or travelling back in time. Allen provides Gil with an opportunity to experience women representing various lifestyles in order for him to come to discover his true self. He finally falls in love with Adriana in a flea market. Adriana is perceptive enough to realize she must come to terms with the present, and yet she appreciates the past. Her most important attribute is that she has the ability to imagine what it was like in the good old days, considering the fact she has never actually been there. Furthermore, Adriana helps Gil realize what it’s like to come out of the dark and experience the true meaning of life—and that is what Midnight in Paris is all about!

  • Davis Negrillo (@DNEGRILLO)

    The film Midnight in Paris is a very well played romantic comedy. It’s not necessarily targeting the female population, as most rom/coms do. Written and directed by Woody Allen, the movie follows Gil, played by Owen Wilson, who is a very successful but yet unfulfilled Hollywood screenwriter. To make up for what he feels he is missing, he decides he wants to write novels instead. Gil and his fiancé, Inez played by Rachel McAdams, visit Paris where Gil’s artistic side starts to come out. While this is happening, they run into an old Professor of Inez, whom she states having a big crush on. From here, she starts dragging Gil around Paris, with this Professor. As things continue on this way, you begin to wonder what he is doing with her and hoping he sees a light of some kind to run. Luckily, he goes for an evening stroll around Paris, alone, and then something magical happens. A 1920’s vehicle pulls up and invites him in to go to a party. For the rest of the evening, he roams around Paris with new friends and old idols, back in the 1920’s. You see that he meets Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, and a whole lot more. As he meets these idols, he starts asking if they would read his novel to give him some advice. He eventually gets it to Gertrude Stein to review. This continues on for a few nights, starting at midnight and ending when he walks away from them all. In one night he meets a beautiful lady and not only completely falls for the 1920’s but starts falling for her. In this, we see the true message of the film. How a person can be so infatuated with past eras of living and feeling as though the present is boring or wrong in some way for them. I believe it’s one of those traits of wanting to live in the personally unknown and beloved lifestyles. This, for me, is why I like this movie so much. I was definitely one of these persons, thinking they were born too late, wishing I could’ve been around for the 50’s or the 80’s. Anyways, as the nights continue on, Gils new flame reveals to him that she does not like the 20’s, but instead the 1890’s. And this is where their roads separate. She ends up staying in the 1890’s, and he decides to go back to 2010 as well as end things with his fiancé. Again, this points out another message in the film. Follow your heart, do what you love, enjoy your time, and everything will be ok. After the separation, Gil runs into a store clerk he met briefly who then starts connecting with him and enjoying the all the stuff he was trying to enjoy with Inez. This was probably the 4th time I’ve seen this film, and I enjoy it every time.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Nice observation about MiP being a more male-centric rom-com. I also agree that we all think we were born “too late.” There’s something alluring about feeling like we _just_ missed out on something, which is what Woody taps into when Adriana talks about the 1890s being the “true” Golden Age. 10/10

  • Dakota D

    Paris at night, in the rain, is indeed breathtaking. I remember standing on my friend’s apartment balcony looking out over the arrondissement. The soft rain fell from the grey sky hitting the cobblestone streets, almost inherently making the entire cities colors more vibrant. I think it helps this movie if you have been to Paris, in the rain or not. Once you remove yourself from the higher class and modern arrondissements of Paris you’ll find yourself in a much older looking city. It is here that you can find yourself sitting at a café at night with the street lights reflecting a faint orange glow on the streets and iconic wooden chairs with an expresso before you. Paris gives off a feeling of olden times, history. Part of its culture is rooted so deeply that it can not let go of its past. In a way, I believe this is the same culture that took hold of Gil (Owen Wilson) in “Midnight In Paris.” The only difference of course being that he actually went back to the 1920s. From the old cars to Gil’s idols including Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein the 1920s are a magical and breathtaking time to visit. I say visit and not stay because we have to remember that Gil is from 2010. He has seen the future that takes place in France and rest of Europe. If I was given such an opportunity, I would choose to only visit. Looking back, it was a wonderful time of culture and parties and historical figures however it is laden by a darker future. We are burdened by the knowledge though that in only 19 years’ time the whole of Eastern Europe would break out in war. In only 20, Paris would fall to German occupation. Thus if it were up to me, I would revel the French culture in our current time. In the end I believe that the French culture was all Gil needed, ever changing, ever a feeling of an older time, ever magical.

    • michaelgloversmith

      The opening sentences of this report indicate that you are a romantic and that you and Gil are kindred spirits. I love the way Inez is completely befuddled by Gil’s fondness for “Paris in the rain” at the beginning, which allows for the final scene (where we see that Gabrielle loves the rain) to be its perfect bookend.

  • Quin Siegel

    Midnight in Paris is a very charming movie about Gil’s, played by Owen Wilson, journey into the 1920’s of Paris, France. Gil has the opportunity to meet some of the greatest artistic minds such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dali.
    The film has some very funny moments throughout its runtime. I loved the moment when Owen Wilson pitches the movie idea to the famous director about characters that cannot leave the table for no real literal reason. The director of the movie himself cannot understand the concept even though he comes up with it some years later. The scene where the detective arrives during the french revolution and the guards are yelling, “Off with his head!”, was also very funny.
    Woody Allen is trying to tell the audience that nostalgia is just that. It is called nostalgia for the fact that everything from the past looks better than it was because it is in the past. There are moments in every person’s life where they wish they could go back to because it seems like the greatest time in their mind. However romantic this idea can be, it is simply not realistic or true. Gil Pender learns this in the film after spending much time in the 1920’s of Paris. He starts to realize that they don’t have things that he takes for advantage like modern medicine.
    It is a hard concept to accept after we romanticize the past so much. Paul explains it well in the beginning of the film when he is explaining what nostalgia really is, but Gil refuses to listen. Paul is like the personification of this idea because his character is so annoying and you don’t want to listen to him as a viewer.

  • Jowayne Calma

    Midnight in Paris is a film about a Hollywood writer named Gil who is vacationing in Paris with his wife Inez and her parents. Gil dreams of living in Paris whereas Inez wants in Malibu, California. He wants to live in Paris to help him complete and get more inspiration for his novel about a man who owns a nostalgia shop in Paris. Most of the film was about the time when he got transported to 1920’s (an era he really loved) at night. He got a chance to meet the artists whom he really idolized, and fell in love with a woman named Adrianna. This movie was fun to watch, I never got bored watching the whole film because it is really fun and interesting. I thought he will end up being with Adrianna but wasn’t. I also had this feeling while watching the film that the novel was actually related to him since it’s about a man who owns a nostalgia shop. Gil really is into nostalgia especially in the 1920’s and I was right about it when Gertrude (whom he asked to critique his novel) told Gil about Hemingway’s question about why the character’s fiancé didn’t realized that she had an affair with another pedantic character. And it turned out to be true when Gil confronted Inez about it and she admitted to having an affair with Paul. The sweetest part of the film is the ending where Gil was walking alone at night and he saw Gabrielle, then it rained and they both agreed that Paris is beautiful when it rains. If you dream about going to Paris, to appreciate its beauty. Midnight in Paris is something you should watch!

    • michaelgloversmith

      Good job noting the parallels between the nostalgia-shop owner in Gil’s novel and Gil’s own life. One of the best lines in the film is Gil saying to Inez “You can fool me but you can’t fool Ernest Hemingway!” 10/10

  • Derek

    Woody Allen proves that he still has what it takes after all these annual films to create a masterpiece with Midnight in Paris. From the casting of Owen Wilson, to the questions formulated at the end of the film, this film was a piece that will go down as one of his greatest. One of the questions formulated for me at the end of the film. I have always thought that living in a different time period would be so much more peaceful and fun than what life is like today. I used to ride the bus every day from school and back and took the train to go to the city and people have become so anti social, and I would love to live in a time when technology did not have as big of a part in our lives as it does today. Now the question that formulated was “Would living in a different era without as much technological influence really make me happier or is it just nostalgia for the ‘good ol days'”? Woody Allen attempts to answer that question in this film. When Gil finishes his journey in 1920’s Paris, he leaves with a lot of insight to his own wants and needs. One of the life lessons he aquired was that every generation wants to be apart of a previous generation rather than their own, yet the contradiction is that every generation has their own set of problems. Vietnam, the war on drugs, the war on terror, the red scare, both world wars, and now is more climate change/gun control issues/equality. No matter what generation a person was born in, I can’t help but feel that they wanted to be a part of a “better” generation before them, in my case I would love to have been able to comprehend what life was like in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but would I really be happier? Given my current complaint with society and technology at this point in time, I can’t really think of any reason I wouldn’t like that time period. The cold war “ended”, stocks were decent along with housing, no one knew what the middle east was, let alone Iraq…life was simple. Anyway, the point of this is to demonstrate the value this film has in saying that one should be grateful for the generation they are in and should accept the improvements they have over the previous generations before them. Here I am complaining about technology, yet I have access to the entire history of anything in my pocket at all times…in which I use to watch cat videos. If I were in the early 90’s I would need to own a cat to see anything close to the videos I see on youtube. Anywho, I thought that Woody Allen did a spectacular job in sending a message to people, despite any kind of generational gap, to be grateful for the time period you live in today. It may be different than the era’s prior to you, but at the same time, we also don’t have their problems either. I enjoyed this movie the second time just as much as I enjoyed it the first. Can’t wait for the next film.

  • Omar Khairi Mohammed

    In the film Midnight in Paris one can clearly see how each character has a weakness that has limited their ability to clearly interact properly with others around them. In the beginning it is clear that Gil and his fiancé Inez are clearly not meant to be; however, they clearly cannot see this because Gil who is an easy-going laid back nostalgic only sees how attractive Inez is. Inez on the other hand, comes from an affluent family, so she and her family are used to seeing the value in materialistic things rather than the beauty they hold. That clearly shows the disconnect that Gil has with his time period. The artists also suffer from some weakness. The FitzGerald’s, similar to Gil and Inez, clearly don’t have chemistry and everything seems to be a competition to Zelda, while F. Scott just wants her love. Ernst Hemingway is a bitter drunk who is clearly upset at the world and it’s his bitterness that prevents Adriana from falling for him. Adriana suffers from some type of nostalgia that prevents her from being happy in her present time. The overlying theme here seems to be that each character suffers from a limitation and that they could be much happier if they were to just focus on what makes them happy and abandoning the things that brings them depression.

  • Brian Stern

    Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris was a surprisingly entertaining film. I can’t say that I remember ever watching in their entirety a Woody Allen picture so I really don’t have the knowledge base to compare Midnight in Paris to, which is probably a good thing. The film is basically about a Hollywood screenwriter named Gil who while on a Paris vacation with his fiancee and her parents who falls in love with the Paris scene and is driven to stay and refocus his ambitions in a different direction and move to Paris to be inspired much like the people he worships in his favorite era of 1920’s Paris. His fiancee Inez and her parents don’t understand his passion and shoot down his idea every time it’s brought up. There are a series of go with the flow moments then eventually Gil has enough and breaks away to walk and reflect. In a Cinderella like moment at the strike of midnight an old car car appears that he is coerced to take a ride in and taken through time to his golden age era, The 20’s. He mingles with his artistic and literary heroes as well as a love interest Adrianna.
    The immediate feeling you get when watching this film is when you observe the relationship between Gil and Inez or anyone in Inez’s circle its inherently clear that he does not fit in and is an outsider. None of the people share the same awe and inspiration of Paris that Gil has. Inez is obviously self absorbed and status oriented much like every other person in her life. She is only with Gil because he is successful in Hollywood and has the money to keep her in the lifestyle she likes. When Gil does the whole time travel thing you see how he is immediately accepted as the person he is and people who he has never met before befriend and mentor as if he was one of the group enabling himself to grow. Adrianna’ role as the love interest he can’t keep ultimately shows Gil a different aspect of relationships that He wasn’t getting with Inez in shared passions and what not. The introduction of Gabrielle, the woman selling vintage records at the antique market booth, foreshadowed the ending of the movie. If they would have never shown Gil and her interacting the two times before the ending I would have said that he would have stayed in the past.
    As far as the execution of the film goes the casting, filming locations and writing really worked well together as a whole. Independently I had a few issues. I liked who the cast as for the 1920’s scenes. They clearly captured the feel and look of the historical people they were trying to depict. The scenes with Adrien Brody as Dali and Corey Stoll as Hemingway were absolutely hysterical and in a way you felt they were that person. The filming locations on there own showed the tourist landmarks that you expect to see in a movie set in Paris. I was lucky enough to go to Paris earlier this year so I was looking to see what I could recognize if anything. Everything in the film is exaggerated and clean, almost picturesque. The overall feel almost compared to my experience except that they are only showing you the safe tourist friendly parts of town and when they did show a location outside of the touristy zones they obscured the fact it was in a seedy area. I am talking mainly the scene in the antique/flea market. I browsed there for a few hours one of my days in Paris and in reality it was more congested and a little dirtier. If you had a car it’s not the area you would want to park and leave to go shopping. Aside from my personal experience it did not take away from the enjoyment of film.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Good point about the film being “exaggerated and clean, almost picturesque.” The picture-postcard imagery is intentional. It’s Paris as seen from the POV of a tourist wearing rose-colored glasses. In other words, Woody Allen’s point-of-view as director mirrors Gil’s point-of-view as a character. 10/10

  • Esam Mohammed

    Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris was an enjoyable one to watch.In the film, Woody Allen seems to be sharing a message about living in the moment. Gil and Adriana both have this problem because during the film it seems like they are unhappy about being in their present time. Just as they go back farther in time, it seems that even the critics that lived before them despised the time they were in and wished to go back to the Renaissance. Gil and Adriana felt unloved in their respective times and saw the past as an escape from their cruel reality. It is not their fault because in the time that they live in, they don’t have anyone who appreciates the modern art with them. Gil shows Adriana how great the art of 1920’s is but it does not seem that she is interested. It is only towards the end that Gil sees how the past is not all that great and the future holds much more for him. The message here is to live in the moment rather than reminisce about the past. Nostalgia is not bad but instead of living in the past, we should face our problems head on and make progress for the future.

  • Nick Weimer

    The two-minute introductory tour of Paris is a great way to start the film. Woody just throws you into the (super-romanticized) beauty of Paris, shot after shot, all cut to the music, asking– no… IMPLORING you to love and appreciate and romanticize Paris. Then it gets dark and you hear Gil agreeing with you while talking to his anxiety-generating fiance, Inez, about the hypothetically death-inducing beauty of Paris in the rain, and Inez really just doesn’t get it. Gil thinks Paris and it’s artistic history is amazing, and Inez thinks he’s a romantic fool, and not in a way she really appreciates. The Gil/Inez (and Gil/Paris) relationship is set up as soon as the film properly starts.

    “Midnight In Paris” looks warmly at the past while explicitly advising against falling into a nostalgic trap. It does not reject romanticism as much as it cautions against becoming stuck or blinded by it. It acknowledges the goodness of life/culture at all times, while saying, as Gil eventually concludes, that the only real way forward is futureward. The grass of the past is not really any greener, but the grass of the future is much greener without an Inez (and/or when one focuses on the ‘big things’.) (at least potentially).

    =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

    I thought that Hemingway’s laconic, macho, drinking, fighting persona was very funny and well-represented. Dali musing on the tears of the rhinoceros is great too, but for some reason Hemingway’s lines are all kind of perfect and hilarious to me. Hemingway feels very Hemingway-like.

    =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

    Do you think Gil ever takes Gabrielle, his new Parisian love-interest, to the past?

    Also, the way that time travel works in the movie doesn’t allow anyone to really STAY in the past, according to the scene where Gil leaves the bar and finds a laundrymat in its place. The time-whatsit seems to kick you out and back to your own time after some time-limit/circumstantial something-or-another comes to pass. BUT, then there’s the private detective who somehow ends up jumping back a few hundred years. Does he get booted out like Gil does? If you get booted out, do you go one level up, or back to the top? Is there a time limit? Does one age in the past. How is this all effecting Gil’s sleeping patterns? These are all VERY important, PRESSING questions, that I would REALLY like to have explained to me by Allen, or perhaps ‘Alan’, who would almost certainly have all the relevant answers.

  • Esho Youkhana

    “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen is humor filled with movie that was very pleasant to watch. What I noticed first about the film is the relationship between Inez and Gil. They are so different from each other, it is practically annoying to just seem them diffusing together on the screen. Inez wants to do things by the books, while Gil is more of a free floating kind of guy. It is clear that Inez and Gil just do not fit together. Professor Smith made a good point noting that Owen Wilson was refreshing to the humor of the film because he is from Texas and unlike what Woody Allen usually casts. However, I think Owen Wilson was awesome on the screen ad his humor made the film very fun to watch. Woody Allen does a good job pointing out the obvious in the film, for example how Inez is only with Gil because he has money. Also, how the self absorbed Inez’s family is compared to Gil and in the scenes Gil even mocks them indirectly and its hilarious. My favorite part of the film is how Woody Allen introduces Gabriela as a side character and does not strain her character that much. It put our attention on the relationship affair between Gil and Adriana. One of the point I think Woody Allen is trying to show the viewers is that some things just don’t fit together as much as you want them to. Just like how Gil and Adriana wanted to be in different decades and how Gil and his wife are just two different people who do not belong together.

  • Jimmy Nellamattathil

    Midnight in Paris was a very well directed film with a strong and lasting message. This film follows Gil, acted by Owen Wilson, as he is in Paris with his fiance and in-laws. Gil attempts to convince his fiance to move to paris so he can start a new life and follow his dream of being a novel author. In the film as Gil walks around the city at night simply taking in the beauty, at midnight a car comes and picks him up bringing him back to the 1920s giving him the opportunity to meet several of his heros. The unrealistic way he travels back in time is something to question, but i believe that is because there is supposed to be a bit of mystery and the viewers shouldnt get hung up over that. I really liked the notion that in the film every night when Gil travels back in time, realistically he is actually dreaming and has vivid dreams that help him come to the realization of what he wants in life. Continuously throughout the film we are reminded that the 20s were the golden years for artists in France and that is where some of the most famous and notible works came from. We find Gil wanting to stay in the past with his new found love becuase he believes that is where he belongs, but in the end a very powerful message is heard. Gil realizes that in every generation, people think the times before them were better and they came up with the best works, but that is what happens as time goes on and with all people. The older people get the more they begin to disrespect the present and hold the past on a pedistal. But what Gil finds out is that the current is the best time one can be in, he just wont realize it until he has passed. Romantic films were never my cup of tea, but the film was funny and kept my interest from the opening scenes until the final credits.

  • Prat Moshy

    Midnight in Paris did a great job portraying how one person can separate himself from the world and realize the things they are missing in life. When Gil decided to go on his nightly walks he discovers the nightlife and the heart of Paris. What I realized throughout the movie is that Gil is not as happy as he thought he would be when he goes out on the regular with Inez. I think that it shows the disconnect that he has with the whole going out for dinner and wine. When he takes the opportunity to life the nightlife in Paris it bring him back to inspirational time of writing and that is what in the end makes Gil happy. I believe that he still loves Inez and the city of Paris, but is more interested in what the city life of Paris really has to offer his imagination of the 20’s.

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