Film Review: Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" Is a Splendid Feast for the Senses

Gil Bender (Owen Wilson) roams the streets in "Midnight in Paris."

It's been awhile since I've written a movie review, amid all my other writing pursuits.

I could not, however, overlook Woody Allen's brilliant little gem, "Midnight in Paris" (2011).

My sister invited me to view it with her (she wanted to see it a second time before she had to return it to the library), so I went and watched it with her on Monday.

The characters 

The story is about a fictional American writer and filmmaker, Gil Bender (Owen Wilson), who visits Paris with his fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams). While in the city, he experiences world-alteringly weird and cool stuff. 

Gil is The Best. His name proves it. If you're a writer or creative type, or if you appreciate creativity, you'll love this guy. He is smart, witty, humble and not terribly ambitious, but he persistently pursues his craft. Which is why he's in Paris to begin with. He wants to write The Great American Novel as an ex-pat, like so many before him have done. Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway. The list goes on. 

But his fiancee won't move there with him. She wants to live in Hollywood forever, getting rich off Gil's filmmaking career. 

Inez is The Worst. If you're a decent human being of any kind, you'll think rich, spoiled Inez, and her indulgent and clueless parents, Helen (Mimi Kennedy) and John (Kurt Fuller) should all be pushed into a lake. 

Inez is cloyingly flirtatious with an old college pal, Paul (Michael Sheen), whom the group bumps into at a restaurant. (Cue foreshadowy, ominous music).

At every turn, she thwarts Gil's plans to gather inspiration and spend time alone writing. She belittles his ambitions. She only cares about jewelry and shopping. She is That Girl, a broad-strokes caricature of a shallow, self-absorbed woman. 

The conflict

Here's the thing: Inez feels very real. That's because Woody Allen gives her a legitimate desire, the desire to be loved and admired. He then twists it like a snake bite until we are writhing in agony, seething in frustration with her and even with lovable Gil. They keep miscommunicating, reinforcing a cycle of blow-ups and hang-ups. 

The love and beauty

The movie's thumping heartbeat, though, is neither of these two vibrant lead characters. The film's sweet and tender core is its loving homage to literature, music, art and the character of Paris. The streets are filled with it, at all hours of the day — especially after midnight. Gil discovers this in an original and thrilling plot twist pretty early on in the film.

You'll have to watch the movie to fully know what I mean. I can't say more without spoilers.

Meanwhile, check out this clip from one of my favorite scenes. (Warning: It does contain spoilers. In my opinion, though, the spoilers won't ruin your appetite for the movie, if you decide to watch it.) 

Confused? Delighted? Want to watch the whole thing and find out more? Good. Mission accomplished. :)

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