Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris

Standard disclaimers: this thread may include “spoilers”, kind of. I mean, it’s not really a spoil-able movie; if you’ve seen the trailer, you pretty much know the plot. However, if one wanted to go into the movie without knowing anything about it, or wanted to remain uninformed on which historical figures appear, then one should stop reading.

I know this has opened in limited release in the US; I’d imagine it’ll be open in wide release soon.

I adored this movie. We’ve been watching lots of broccoli movies over the past few weeks. Documentaries, depressing foreign films, tragic dramas, all those “It’s not unenjoyable, but I’m mostly watching it because it’s good for me” movies. This? Was cinematic candy. Pretty, light, fluffy (though not particularly satisfying and best not to think too much about afterwards).

It was by no means a great or classic film. Pretty uneven. But I enjoyed it so, so very much. Anyway, my thoughts gathered below.

The “Great”:

  • Gorgeous, gorgeous shots of Paris
  • Owen Wilson. Nice to see him out of those terrible rom-coms and dead dog movies. (oh geez, I said no spoilers, didn’t I?)
  • The adorable Allison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald.
  • Corey Stoll, heretofore known to me as “mustachioed cop dude from Law and Order:LA”, was fan-frickin-tastic as a Hemingway who speaks as he wrote: short, terse, animalistic. Dead sexy.
  • the pretty, sweet, charming Marion Cotillard as a pretty, sweet, charming flapper girl.
  • [del][COLOR=Black]Tony Blair[/del][/COLOR] Michael Sheen was delicious as the pretentious douchebag. The only thing I enjoyed about the present-day scenes.

The “…Meh”:

  • Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein. She was fine, yeah, but it seemed basically like “Okay, we need an actress who is roughly Gertrude Stein shaped. Kathy Bates? Sure, why not.” She didn’t seem to inhabit the role, or bring much to it.
  • Brody’s Dali impression. Humorous but, you know, Dali’s weird, he says weird stuff, we know. It felt like the easy way out.

The “Ugh, bad”:

  • every review has mentioned or will mention this I’m sure: Rachel McAdams’ character is fucking ridiculously shrewish and terrible. I know it was necessary to create a home situation that the main character needs to escape from, but dear lord. There’s so many ways that this character could have been created that would have more interesting. The in-laws-to-be were even worse. And why bother casting someone naturally adorable like McAdams if you just need a complete bitch of a character?

So basically, I loved all the flashback stuff, didn’t much care for the present-day stuff. I just felt like it could have been an awesome movie, but was simply a good movie. As it was, it was like some sort of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for 1920’s Lost Generation Paris, and I love 1920’s Lost Generation Paris, so I dug it. But I felt it could have been one of the great Woody Allen movies, and it just fell short. Again though, some empty calories, cinematically speaking, are a nice treat every now and then.


My experience was sweetened by the fact that I had seen no previews, knew nothing of the plot- or even the cast (and was sketchy on the title). A friend and I have a tradition of going to see every new Woody Allen movie. I had heard there was a new one, I looked it up, and we went to see it knowing nothing about it.

I was pretty well delighted.

All of his recent movies I felt nothing stronger than “like”. It was “dislike” for Whatever Works and “really like a lot” for Vicky Christina Barcelona but we have to go all the way back to Melinda and Melinda and Match Point since he’s put out a movie that I “LOVED” (and before those two, we’d have to skip the Dreamworks era going back to Sweet and Lowdown).

This one, I LOVED.

I’m with you on loving the gorgeous shots of Paris.
Once we met Corey Stoll’s Hemingway, I wanted him to be in every scene (and the first time I saw Marion Cotillard ever, I wanted her to be in every scene of every movie ever).
I think Owen Wilson gave the best performance of any actor cast in “The Woody Allen Role”- maybe neck and neck with John Cusack in Bullets Over Broadway.

I agree that the fiance was cartoonishly shrewish, but I’ve come to expect this from Woody Allen’s films so it didn’t faze me. If a women is supposed to be “the bad guy” in a Woody Allen film, this is how he’s going to paint her.

I enjoyed her parents, caricatures though they were, because Kurt “I assure you those phrases were not on the cards when I gave them to him” Fuller is so damn enjoyable in anything he does.

I liked the scenes in the present because these scenes assured me that he would be capable of being truly happy once he was ready to choose to stop living in fantasy (unlike the - albeit much more powerful - ending of Purple Rose of Cairo where we see that the main character will only survive precisely because she still has the comfort of her fantasy world).

I’ve more thoughts, but have to leave the computer at the moment- will be back later!

What makes a movie good for you, if it’s not enjoyable? I’m curious.

I LOVED it! Fantastic on all cast, as usual. The ending was light, maybe too light, but I suppose that it works with the realization that Gil gets. Hokey, when it starts to rain perhaps, but it seemed like he was really ready for the present when it ended.

The movie is a trifle, but a wonderful trifle.

I mostly agree with beartato’s assessment, though I liked Gertrude Stein and Dali better than he did. The present day scenes were deliberately written to contrast with the poetry and bite of the 1920s; they were there to suffer through to get to the good stuff. I’m no fan of movies that start with couples on the verge of getting married that you can’t imagine lasting through a single date, but that’s been a staple of every romantic comedy since the dawn of sound. Inez and her parents were a waste of good actors.

But the 20s scenes more than made up for them. In most films that pretend to bring real people to live you want them off the screen as soon as possible. Here I wanted more than I was given. More Scott and Zelda. More Dali. And more, more, more Hemingway. Hearing him talk like he wrote is about the best Hemingway parody I’ve encountered, and I collect parodies.

Movies are almost never “written” these days. Lines are either throwaways designed to be “realistic” or else cliches or soundbites. You could feel the pleasure of the actors biting into the wonderful lines they’ve finally been given, something designed to be acted instead of mumbled. (That was a major problem with Inez. She never had a line, just strings of words.) I felt a similar pleasure from films like The King’s Speech, which also understood how to shape a character with lines that gave them heft.

To get away from films that are pratfalls and explosions, I’ve been going to see some tiny independent films made on zero budgets. It may be coincidence, but while they were good in their way they stretched out their running time with long takes, meaningful silences, shots from moving cars, and inarticulate “real” dialog. Maybe that’s why I felt such joy at a professional carving out scenes with words rather than images.

Some of the negative reviews I’ve seen are reviews of Woody Allen and not the movie. Ignore them. If you are an adult and take pleasure at a movie for adults, see this one.

The Hemingway and Dali parodies were hilarious. I thought this was a helluva good movie. One of Woody Allen’s best.

It’s making real money, too, for a Woody Allen film. It will probably be his highest grosser in a generation.

That will be less than the first day gross for the new Transformers, but you couldn’t get me into that theater at gunpoint.

Woody Allen’s best in years. I went to see it twice.

I loved Brody’s Dali impression. If you’ve ever seen film of Dali, it was spot on.

The only thing that bothered me was that Owen Wilson, like every lead actor in a Woody movie, was doing his Woody impression and several of the other actors were also exhibiting trademark Woody Allen phrasing in their line readings. I wish that I could see a Woody Allen movie in which every character comes off as an independent, real, complete person, instead of just a medium for Allen’s speech and mannerisms.

I also wish Allen would give up some of his go-to cinematographic crutches. In particular, I’m thinking of the scene at the end in which Owen Wilson is standing on a bridge and he starts talking to the girl from the antiques shop, but you can’t see her because she’s out of the frame.

I think every damn Woody Allen movie has a shot like that, with the subject talking to someone outside the frame, who is revealed after the conversation has started. And the person on camera is always mimicking Woody’s trademark facial expressions and body language. Ugh. It takes me right out of the story when he pulls this same old shit.

Some of the performances were really good, however. In particular, I noticed the actor playing Michael Sheen’s wife. I can’t recall her name, but with so few actual lines of dialogue, she managed to create a real, complete character, who is constantly looking to her husband for approval. It cracked me up that she kept saying things twice – once in a more authentic French pronunciation and once in an Anglicized pronunciation.

I’ve seen the movie, and oddly enough, I agree with every single post in this thread.

We saw this over the weekend and I agree it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed Brody as Dali, and to the extent he was a caricature, that’s the way the part was written. Most of the historical people were caricatures by design. I’m pretty sure Fitzgerald did not go around saying “old sport” like Gatsby did. It stuck out more more with Dali because he only had the one scene. Anyway I like Brody and I enjoyed seeing him do something that was a commercial for soda or beer.

The complaints about McAdams’ character are completely correct, and I noticed the same shot on the bridge that Acsenray did. You knew who Gil was going to be talking to in that scene. It wasn’t a surprise. That said, I thought this was a very enjoyable movie about what it’s like to fall in love with a person and with a city. Wilson mostly worked as the Woody Allen Guy. There were a few places where the word jumbles didn’t quite fit in his mouth, but I’m not sure I’ve ever liked him that much in another movie.

We enjoyed the film, also. The portrayal of artists and authors from the past was an unusual plot device, but it worked. Most of them were hilariously well done. The best part of the movie for me is that Woody Allen wasn’t in it. I seriously cannot abide the man’s whining, and intensely dislike most of his films. Wilson sometimes channeled Allen a bit too much, but otherwise did a good job with the role.

And I could say the same thing about Kevin Smith’s movies, which I also like.

She was fantastic, and it struck me as so authentic; I find myself doing the same thing! “The Sor-BOH… the Sor-bon…”

I’ve seen it now three times in theatre and it’s the first time I’ve felt about a movie the way I do about a re-reading a beloved book from my adolescence. I just enjoy watching it for the comfort and enjoyability factor, without letting myself get pulled out of it by ridiculous plot points and such.

Exapno, can I ask what there was about the character and portayal of Stein that you enjoyed? I’m wondering if I missed something; repeat viewings haven’t changed my view of the character as “okay”. Also, I can’t get over Stoll’s Hemingway. It was, indeed, the perfect approximation of the man if he hadn’t existed as a person, and one had constructed him from his works. I heard an NPR interview with the actor where he says that his instruction were to read, read, read, Hemingway but not listen to interviews or take in biographies, something Stoll did magnificently. It’s so perfect for this film.

I haven’t seen the movie, though I’ve marked it for DVD, but I’m surprised at all the good reviews of Owen Wilson. He usually seems to have all the range of a sawed off derringer; can he actually act?

Forget all those romantic comedies and buddy cop movies and, well, basically 90 percent of the movies he’s been in.* Bottle Rocket* and his other collaborations with Wes Anderson show some of what he’s capable of. It’s funny, most of the comments that his Midnight in Paris character makes about his hack screen-writing career felt applicable to Wilson’s films, in my mind.

I said I liked her more than you did, but I reserved my real praise for other actors. We’re talking shades of okay moving into good. I did appreciate that she wasn’t played as a caricature, which is mostly the slot she’s pegged into today. She was a major influence and a person of some stature at the time, senior to all the flighty geniuses she mentored. That’s the way Kathy Bates played her. Allen didn’t make all the historic personages caricatures or dully real, but gave them a spectrum of wildness. That struck as right overall and Stein fit well as part of that. I was really surprised that Alice Toklas got no lines. (She opens a door.) I’ll bet there’s something on the cutting room floor.

Wilson didn’t have to act so much as be the befuddled center around which things happened. I can’t decide whether he was good at playing the straight man or just a tentpole, but he wasn’t bad. And his Woody impersonation was not quite as obnoxious as you might gather.

I saw this last night and also loved it - initially I would have said “liked it a lot”, but Ir realized later that I really did end up grinning through long parts of the movie because it was so fun.

I was also unexpectedly pleased at how Owen Wilson did. If you’re doing to cast someone to stand in for Woody Allen, at least pick someone who doesn’t look like Woody or particularly sound like him…which is what they did.

Agree on his fiance. We also saw “The Help” last night, and both films featured characters so mean or shrewish that it was annoying.

Still, I expect to rewatch Midnight in Paris.

I liked, didn’t love, it. Would have been a lot better without all those actors and dialogue in it. Just show me Paris.

The more annoying Wilson Brother, well, annoyed me, and the Lost Generation writers and artists have always struck me as pompous, overblown yahoos (so, really, the Hemingway parody was spot-on). I’m with '20s Girl: take me back to La Belle Epoch.

I am off to Paris this spring, and will not get into any 1920s cars–I will wait for Anna Held to drive by in a coach-and-four to whisk me off.

I assume you mean “most annoying Wilson Brother” since there are three of them. The oldest, Andrew, is less well known but certainly has acted in a number of movies, including some with both his younger brothers. (Bottle Rocket and the Royal Tenenbaums at the least).

From Husbands and Wives on–you know, ever since the incident–a running theme in nearly every one of Woody’s movies is that infidelity is justified, not pursuing an extramarital affair is dishonest. Here he portrays Rachel McAdams’ character as evil for doing what we cheer Owen Wilson’s character on for doing, so Woody gets to have his cake and whine about it too.

Visually stunning, though.