I know, I know. Am I seriously going to talk about a year-old movie when there are so many enticingly crappy action movies in theatres at the moment?! As it turns out, yes. The Boy was out of town for a few days at a hockey tournament (which I’ve just been notified they won — congrats The Boy and team!) so the Netflix has been getting a slightly heavier chickflick workout than usual this week.
What inspired me to finally check out Midnight in Paris? I like both the leads, I was feeling sappy and a movie about a couple in Paris (the purported plot) sounded like a good fit, and I’ve been meaning to get around to finally watching a Woody Allen movie for some time now. The stars aligned and it was a good decision!
(Warning: Since this movie is about a year old, I’m not too worried about spoiling it. Further, since the point of the movie is character development, I’m pretty sure knowing the plot ahead of time won’t detract much from the experience either, but just in case, Know Ye This: there are spoilers ahead.)
First off, I have to rant about what bugs me about this whole movie. The premise is that engaged couple Inez* and Gil** are travelling along with Inez’s parents to spend a couple weeks in Paris. During that time, Gil — who has held a romantic, writerly notion of Paris since he was there in his youth — meanders further and further down a bizarre rabbit-hole of nostalgia and introspection, eventually leading him to call off the engagement and move to Paris full-time.
* Possibly because the movie was set in Paris, possibly because Owen Wilson has a weird drawl, throughout the movie I kept thinking her name was Anais. I was quite disappointed when it turned out to be Inez, I have to tell you. I don’t want to anger the Inezes of the world, or anything, but that is the truth of my experience.
** So, this being my first exposure to Woody Allen, I have to ask: do all of his movies have crazily-named characters? I mean, does anyone actually know any real people named “Inez” or “Gilbert”? Just wondering.
This in itself is not a bad premise. It sounds like a kind of tired coming-of-age story about the sell-out Hollywood script writer who wants to be true to his self and get back to writing his novel, and where better to do it than Paris? What annoyed me greatly was that Gil’s big epiphany that he and Inez are all wrong for each other comes after 90 minutes of it being completely obvious that they’re wrong for each other. (I am completely serious when I say that the only time when Inez and Gil seem to actually like each other is right at the beginning, when in their conversation it is made clear that they value different lifestyles.)
Am I to take from this that Woody Allen isn’t sure that we’ll know that Inez is the “villain” of sorts, that he really wanted to make it clear that his ending was the best for everyone involved? Or would it just be too loose-endy and hazy to base the movie around a couple who actually enjoyed each other on-screen, they just… you know, didn’t ultimately share the same vision for what they wanted out of life? I don’t know. I do know that I thought Inez’s tacked-on affair was unnecessary — I really dislike over-villification, if I can say that, of characters who are really just meant to be normal people; Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you — and that I felt every character other than Gil and his cast of crazy 20s cohorts felt disappointingly two-dimensional.
Or maybe that was the point. That Gil was choosing to leave the vapid, superficial folks surrounding him behind, choosing instead those with warmth and depth? Maybe. This is where someone more given to character analysis and appreciation of literary themes might be able to draw something out of Allen’s work. Not so much me. I will say however that in the early scenes between Inez and Gil, I found the lack of soundtrack… unsettling. I was wondering if it was an Allen-ism to strip them completely of mood music, or just something from this film. All this until Gil stumbles into the past, however, and is welcomed with the riotous flapper music at every turn; more on the shallow/2D vs “real”, I guess.
This isn’t to say I didn’t like the movie. I actually enjoyed it tremendously, because for all that Gil and his anachronous chronies were the better-developed ones… they’re also the ones with the majority of the screen time, so it works out! I have to admit I was initially a little disappointed to find that Gil could replicate his jump through time… but once we got to know the 20s characters a little better, became very glad of it. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what made me enjoy the movie: I suspect that while no one aspect was amazing, overall every aspect was so nicely done that it just fit together into a really nice whole. This was definitely less of a chickflick in the traditional sense than I thought it would be, but is still an extremely character-driven flick. A hearty 7.6/9