Saturday, 24 March 2012

Midnight in Paris Commentary

It's definitely a quirky Woody Allen movie.  And they found the perfect guy to play the main character.  Owen Wilson does loveable quirky better than anyone in Hollywood.  When you combine that with Allen's off the wall yet strangely grounded style, you get a very enjoyable film.  Allen takes a normal world and makes it abnormal but acceptable to the people in it.  In a way, it is the only thing I didn't care for in the film.  Gil (Wilson) and Adriana (Marion Cotillard) accept the fact that they are jumping back in time to their own perceived golden age of Paris.  That bugged me a bit at first.  In a movie that was meant to be realistic, they would be freaking out for a while.  But this is a Woody Allen movie so it moves to the surreal much more easily.  Instead of having a crisis that Gil would go through to accept his predicament, it is accepted and Gil just moves on and rolls with the punches.  The result is a much faster paced and enjoyable film that doesn't get bogged down in this kind of crisis.

That isn't to say that there is no message to the movie.  I don't really know if Allen often tries to have any kind of moral or lesson for the viewer.  But regardless, when I see a message in a movie (not all of them have anything allegorical or such that hits me), I like to jump on it.  I couldn't care less if it's intended or not.  If Allen meant for it, great.  if not, I will still take it away and heed it.  Midnight in Paris really hit me as a message that we should be happy with where and who we are.  That it is too easy to get caught up in the nostalgia of the past and become miserable when we cannot experience it.  So, instead, make where you are your own golden age.  Even in such a complicated world, we can find the things that make it special.  I have to think it was intended simply due to the one bit of dialogue between Adriana and Gil.  Either way, it's a message that I think we can all really take to heart.  I think this is also what made it into the Oscar voting.  This year's Oscars were all about artistic nostalgia and the Academy really skewed everything that way from the get go.  Otherwise, even though it's a great film, I don't think it would have gotten the buzz that it did.

The one thing that really stood out to me on a technical standpoint was Wilson.  As I said, nobody plays loveable quirky like him.  His ability to deliver what I can only describe as distracted dialogue has always been his strength.  And it plays perfectly in such a quirky Woody Allen movie.  He's at his best when he plays a character that is unsatisfied yet strangely optimistic about it.  It's the same type of character he played in the Darjeeling Limited, Bottle Rocket and even Drillbit Taylor to a certain extent.  In Midnight in Paris, he plays it perfectly.  Sadly, I thought his interactions with Cotillard could have been better.  Most of their dialogue fell a bit flat and slowed the movie down a bit too much. I think she was maybe a poor choice.  There was no real on-screen chemistry that I felt and, given their roles, there really needed to be some.

I feel I also need to mention how the historical characters were portrayed.  To a large extent, these would be Allen's interpretation of what they would have been like combined with how the actors were motivated.  For the most part, I thought it was satisfactory.  I was, however, a bit disappointed in how Corey Stoll played Ernest Hemmingway.  There was the brooding and depressed element to the character but it was done as too much of a caricature for my taste.  At one point, in the car, he kind of reminded me of Peter Graves in Airplane asking the little boy if he liked Gladiator movies.  But, considering that it's a lighthearted film, that can be somewhat forgiven.  Another one that I think is worth mentioning is Adrien Brody's portrayal of Salvador Dali.  It was just downright bizarre.  Maybe that is what Dali was like, I don't know.  It was a bit too far left of centre to really fit with the overall comic level of the movie.  But it was only one scene and it was still entertaining even if out of place.

I also need to mention the music.  It was done absolutely perfectly.  You really got the feeling throughout that, even in the present day scenes, you were still almost in the 1920s "golden age."  To me, that really drove home the "live in the present" message that I took away from the film.

Definitely see it.  The drawbacks I mentioned are far outweighed by the use of dialogue, music and romantic Paris sets that just give you a nice inspiring feeling after watching it.

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