The rest of my favorite films will be coming in another post, but for me there was one film that I would definitely rank above all others in 2011: Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. To be perfectly honest, I have probably watched this film about 6 or 7 times now. I know it’s not the most groundbreaking film of the year, nor is it the most profound, but I quite unabashedly love this film. I know it covers some of the same ideas that Woody covered in The Purple Rose of Cairo (one of my other favorites of his), but I felt that Paris goes about it in a different way.
First of all, Woody makes Paris look just like you imagine it, if you were to fantasize about going there. Just watching the opening shots of Paris makes me want to hop on the next plane! He is able to make it seem like a romantic, magical city from the beginning, which he needs for you to accept what happens later. The film is peopled with the usual intellectual, creative people that you always find in a Woody Allen film. I’ve always thought that if I could enter a film, I would want to be in one of Woody’s comedies because everyone is always living in such a cultured world; one where everyone has some kind of artistic ability. In this film, the main character, Gil, is a writer. He’s been successful at writing screenplays, but he wants to write a novel. I think Owen Wilson was a great choice to play Gil because he is different enough in his personna that he is able to play the role without seeming like he is doing a Woody Allen impression (unlike Kenneth Branagh, for example, in Celebrity). Admittedly, having seen the film many times, I can picture Woody Allen delivering the lines, but Owen Wilson is able to make the role his own.
I know people have argued that the plot is not the most original, but I just get swept away in the world that this film creates. Who wouldn’t want to be able to mingle with the brilliant creative icons of the Lost Generation, especially when the roaring twenties always seem to be so much fun? While I know the portrayals were not all historically accurate, I enjoyed seeing some of my favorite authors brought to life. And who wouldn’t be inspired in that environment? I loved the idea of this mysterious time travel just happening, completely unexplained in Paris. No time is wasted trying to explain why this happens, it just does, and that was good enough for me.
Besides just getting lost in the story, I found the lesson that Gil learned to be very relevant. It seems to me that many people now are always nostalgic for simpler, better times. Politicians are always trotting out cliched views of what America used to be in those idyllic times. We tend to look at the past through rose colored glasses, just like Gil looks at Paris in the twenties. In truth, the past was just as complicated as today, and we need to remember that just like Gil and start making the best of the era we’re living in. As Gil says, the present is “a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying.”
And in my very long winded discussion of this film, the only thing that I completely neglected to mention is how funny it is. It’s definitely more on the witty side of comedy than a broad comedy, but Rachel McAdams gives a great comedic preformance as Gil’s fiancee, as does Michael Sheen as the pedantic know-it-all. My favorite moment, however, is when Gil is discussing his problems with the surrealists. Adrian Brody’s Dali steals the scene as the surrealists are unfazed by a traveller from a different time (and Dali is preoccupied with the image of a rhinoceros).
Now I will stop my non-poetic babbling and hope that all of this has explained why Midnight in Paris is my favorite film of 2011. As I said before, I’ll include the list of the rest of my favorite films in another post, and I promise not to be so long winded about them.