It is always a rare pleasure to go to see a film in the cinemas and have no idea what you are about to see. In an age full of trailers, posters and internet film critics, we are always violently bombarded with information as to what we are spending our hard earned money on at the movies. We know when we are going to see a thriller in which the protagonists daughter has been kidnapped and held for ransom; we know that the spaceship the lead characters have found will contain no living crew members; and it can sometimes ruin the experience. When you know absolutely nothing about a film, you therefore have no expectations as to the events that will transpire before your very eyes. You have no idea what is going to happen, and that is something to be cherished as it leaves you completely open to the film’s narrative structure and your attention shall never waver so as to not lose the plot. However, I believe that perhaps having no prior knowledge of Midnight in Paris was to the film’s detriment rather than a positive thing.
Now Showing this week is Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen. The film revolves around the character of Gil (Owen Wilson), a Hollywood screen writer who loathes his film work and is trying to write a novel, and his unsupportive fiance (Rachel McAdams) who are currently holidaying in Paris. Gil loves the city of Paris and has always wished he could visit Paris in the 1920s as he believes that was the city’s golden age, giving host to artists such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso. One night, Gil is walking alone in the streets of Paris and miraculously travels back in time to the 1920s and meets all the artists that inspire him, leading him to ask for help in writing his book. As Gil goes to and from the past and the present, he develops a conflict of which era he wishes to stay in. I shall leave it there or else I would be explaining the entire film!
I rather enjoyed this film, for the most part because it reminded me that Owen Wilson is still a good actor even though lately his appearances have involved such terrible things as Hall Pass. Wilson’s Gil is interesting, existential and very likable as he develops throughout the course of the film as he gains confidence in himself as a writer. The rest of the cast are very talented as well; Rachel McAdams can really play a shrew of a fiance when she wants to! She was very cruel. Michael Sheen is delightful as an egotistical, charming academic; and Adrian Brody performs excellently as a surrealist French artist. One simply cannot fault the cast in this film.
I can, however, fault the exposition of the time travel in the film. My girlfriend describes me as the “Time Travel Nazi” as I am instantly turned off from a time travel story once the story goes against the logic of the specific time travel theory that it has established. Deja Vu is guilty of this, as it spent the entire film establishing that no matter what one does they cannot change the past, even going so far as to show the main character inciting events for his past self to experience, but then have him change the future anyway. Man that pissed me off! Sorry, I’m getting off track. In Midnight in Paris, the time travel is presented so badly that I actually missed the fact that Gil had traveled in time until he met Ernest Hemingway! And I only noticed that because my brain cottoned on to the fact that I know Hemingway is dead. I should backtrack a bit here; the way in which Gil is shown travelling through time is by him getting lost in Paris and being picked up by a bunch of people in an old fashioned car. They take him to a party where everyone is dressed in 1920s style clothing, which I assumed meant he had been taken to a costume party and marveled at the coincidence that the party theme was identical to Gil’s fantasies. But then Gil met Hemingway and I was confused, and my girlfriend must have noticed this confusion as she lent over and whispered to me that Gil had traveled in time. My response was something along the lines of: “when did that happen?!”
After I knew that time travel had taken place I figured I’d be able to sit back and understand everything that was going on; but then the film did it again! Gil was walking with a woman in the 1920s, then they go to a huge Moulin Rouge event with can-can girls and everything, when all of a sudden the woman drags Gil aside and says “let’s never go back to the 20s”. Again, my response was something along the lines of: “when did that happen?! You’re not in the 20s? When the hell are you?!” For a film where the whole use of time travel is a very pivotal part of the plot, some extra clarity would have been nice. I have heard from other people’s feedback that they struggled with the initial time jumps as well so this can’t be solely my issue. Perhaps I’m not cultured enough in the differences between Paris now and Paris 1920s.
This lack of coherent time travel is not a deal breaker, I did enjoy the film. But the lack of coherence was jarring and left me a little aggravated. In a nutshell, the film had the potential to be a great film and it left me thinking it was a good film. If you’re in the mood for something art-house before the cinemas become over crowded by vampire-loving cretins when Breaking Dawn Part 1 releases this coming week, then I recommend you see it.
See you next time for the review of the aforementioned Breaking Dawn Part 1. That review is sure to be a thumping good read!