Woody Allen’s 2011 film “Midnight in Paris” is what all films should aspire to be. It captures the magic, creativity and heart so many movies lack when they appear in theatres and on our screens.
It follows a dreamer mumbling in conversations all the way into a 1920s Paris, brushing shoulders with the likes of Hemingway, Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald and so many more artists of the time. All the while, the soft-spoken protagonist Gil Pender is vacationing in modern-day Paris.
Gil is a successful Hollywood screenwriter, but he doesn’t feel fulfilled in his work. He is in the process of writing a novel and isn’t sure if he has what it takes to write something beyond the sensational movies he wrote back in the states. This weighs on Gil, as he sees Paris — specifically 1920s Paris — as the epicenter of intellectualism and art.
While Gil appreciates modern-day Paris for what it is, it simply doesn’t feel like it’s the right generation for him, and he seems better suited for that golden age of ’20s Parisian life.
One night while on a walk, a clock tower rings in the new day at midnight, and an old, glamorous car stops and offers Gil a ride to a party. Gil, looking to get away from his overbearing fiancé Inez, obliges and is whisked away to 1920s Paris.
Now this is where I really commend Woody Allen and this film. Instead of focusing on the ‘how’ of time travel, the film and Gil just go with it. They don’t bog you down with the minutiae of the science or the possible effects or anything that could make this film sound like a sci-fi original.
That is the beauty of “Midnight in Paris.” It allows you to watch it and fall into its soothing story, well-crafted dialogue, warm cinematography and marvelous acting and just take in the sights and sounds of the film. The film captures the essence and magic of Paris and the bygone time of the roaring ’20s and transmutes it to the big screen.
For Gil Pender, he goes along for the ride with everything just as we the audience do. He goes along as events unfold, encountering and sharing ideas with any and all interesting characters he meets. And so, he talks with Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the great intellectuals of the day. He learns about old world Paris and feels evermore connected to it — especially when he falls in love.
But Gil Pender’s time is not all in ’20s Paris, as he abruptly shifts back to modern times when he strays too far or takes a wrong turn. Every midnight, though, he is offered a ride back into the ’20s — the time and place he feels the greatest connection to.
While this is happening, Gil’s life in the present day feels less and less important, as he can’t wait to go back to the Paris of the past every night. That is until one night he faces an odd situation with his ’20s love interest.
They are approached by a horse-drawn carriage and taken back to 1890s Paris, which for Gil’s love interest is her own “golden age.” When Gil explains to her that he too is from a different time, she is surprised but still tries to convey to him why the 1890s is the real and truly great Paris.
It is when they have this conversation that Gil realizes he was wrong all along. He sees that while he may have an affinity for the 1920s Paris and the lifestyle there, he wants the comforts of his present-day life.
Gil learns that we all feel out of touch to an extent, belonging to a bygone era. The eclectic nature of our beings isn’t to say we live in the wrong time, but that we all offer differing viewpoints and approaches to how we live and what we love.
And so, Gil says goodbye to his ’20s love interest and collects his book being reviewed by renowned art collector Gertrude Stein, and then heads home to the present day. Once back in the present, Gil ends his relationship with Inez and decides he is moving to Paris.
With no more than the clothes on his back, Gil Pender walks the Parisian streets under lamplight and drinks in the sights with a glee and newfound appreciation for his life and times.
While walking, Gil encounters a young, female art vendor he spoke to earlier in the week. It begins to rain, and they realize they both find Paris most beautiful in the rain. Gil offers to walk her home. She blushes, and through a kind smile, she accepts his offer.
Grant Mitchell is a junior majoring in public relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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