Mark Sieber, proprietor of the Horror Drive-In and all-around great dude, recommended this film a few months ago. Sadly, because I live in a place where wonderful movies often have short runs (if they run at all), this one was here and gone before I knew it had come.
Midnight in Paris won’t win Best Picture (though it will be nominated), and that’s because it’s not your typical Oscar movie. Owen Wilson won’t be nominated for Best Actor, and though he probably shouldn’t be (as it’s written, it’s not a “meaty” enough role, which isn’t Wilson’s fault), his performance should be remembered for being pitch-perfect (and despite what I said above, the role was written perfectly, too—which I’ll get to in a little while).
And because I hate writing synopses, I’m going to instead link to the trailer, which will give you a decent idea of what the movie’s about without divulging too much.
What you need to know about the movie is that it pays tribute without losing perspective. It generates humor without being cruel. It builds tension without resorting to the traditional script choices. It also makes observations without stumbling into preachiness, which I—as a person deeply suspicious of extremists in general—appreciated a great deal. Much of these balancing acts are attributable to the performances, but let’s be honest here…
Without Woody Allen, this wouldn’t be much more than a forgettable lark. This is why, though Allen will be robbed of a Best Director nomination this year (too light-hearted a tone, you see), he will be nominated for and just might win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
I’ve never been to Paris, and if I’m being frank here (no, that wasn’t intentional, so don’t get mad at me), before I saw this movie the city was about fourth or fifth on my must-visit-before-I-die list of European destinations. I mean, I was intrigued by Paris (largely because of Ratatouille), but I wasn’t smitten with the idea of traveling there.
Well, I’m smitten now. I’ve bumped it up to number two on my list, just after Turek, Poland and its bustling wheat industry.
The casting of the film was brilliant. Rachel McAdams was somehow not completely attractive despite being as ravishing as usual. It’s a difficult and thankless job she has, but she performs the yeoman’s task of being the woman we don’t want the hero to be saddled with. Marion Cotillard (pictured above) makes everything that happens to and with her character completely believable. She’s the kind of woman who makes a man believe he is what he wants to be.
And the rest of the supporting cast is equally great (though my wife thought Michael Sheen should have been replaced by an actor with better looks). Personally, I thought he did a great job of making me want to punch him in the face.
And lastly, there’s Hemingway. I don’t know what Papa was really like, but he should have been like Corey Stoll in Midnight in Paris. I read some reviews that claimed he was more of a caricature than a character, and I can see why someone would say that. But for me, the performance struck the perfect balance between the man as he was and the voice with which he wrote, at turns displaying a mischievous glint and a healthy respect. Let me ask you this (if you’ve seen the movie): Do you have any doubt that Corey Stoll admires aspects of Hemingway’s psyche and life? Further, do you have any doubt he realizes how misguided the man could sometimes be in his slavish adherence to certain outmoded codes?
I don’t. And that’s why Stoll was exactly the actor to play Papa. He absolutely nailed it.
So if you haven’t yet, go buy Midnight in Paris. I was going to write a negative review of a different movie tonight (just to show you all I could), but I fell in love instead.
You will too.