My joy for today is Midnight in Paris.
We recently rented Woody Allen’s movie from last year, Midnight in Paris. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I am not one of those people that have always longed to visit Paris. Some movies that I love do feature the City of Light, such as The Devil Wears Prada, Something’s Gotta Give and Ratatouille. However, they failed to convince me and I often felt that love of Paris was somewhat cliched and something the cool cats like to discuss.
Woody Allen got me. In this film, Paris is the main character. The opening is a montage of many picturesque and familiar locations in the city, which continue on much longer than necessary. But this opening serves to inform the audience that this is a movie that takes place in Paris, and is also about Paris. It really is a love letter to the city, and to the time that it romanticizes.
The main (human as opposed to city) character, Gil Pender, played by the amazing Owen Wilson, travels back in time, through means unknown, to the 1920’s in Paris. He meets a whole slew of artists, including Picasso, Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This movie made me feel shockingly uneducated and uncultured, although not in an annoying or condescending way. Many of the artists that Pender meets are undoubtedly extremely famous and revered, and Pender is appropriately awestruck. But the real surprise is that the audience is not left behind if they are not fully aware of the talents of a particular artist. Although this movie is clearly a “smart” film for the upper echelons of society, us regular folks can also appreciate the beauty of the cinematography, the music, and the simplicity of the plot and the characters.
Besides the love affair with Paris, the movie also explores the notion that a bygone time period is preferable to the present. Personally, I have never been under this false assumption. I have always rested in the assurance that all time periods have had their significant problems and challenges. Like Allen alludes to in the plot, in each time period in history, there are those that would wish for time periods past. In the movie, Pender longs for Paris in the twenties, but his love interest from the twenties longs for the turn of the century. Are we ever happy where we actually find ourselves?
I am not a fan of a great deal of Rachel McAdam’s films. That is not to say that I am not a fan of the actress. She is one of the great chameleons of our time. I do not enjoy the sappy, overly romantic version of her in The Notebook and The Vow. I adore her in Mean Girls, The Family Stone and in this film. She is best when she is bad. She is hilarious in Midnight in Paris, as well as her snotty parents and friends in the film. The film is entirely enjoyable because both the magic and delight of the twenties is as entertaining as the strained, distant relationships of the present.
Maybe one day, about thirty years from now, when our kids are grown and we have managed to save a few pennies in a vacation fund, we will see what all the fuss is about in Paris. Until then, I will put Midnight in Paris on my birthday wish list, and live vicariously through Woody Allen’s eyes.
Enjoy your joys for today.