“Midnight in Paris”: An English Major’s Dream
My girlfriend’s parents went and saw Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” a week or so before I did. For a week, they casually suggested I see. At any moment I was not active, or when I was obviously looking for something to do, they would push me to head down to the State Theater to check it out. “You’ll like it,” they said, “but we don’t want to build it up too much.” How very well they know me.
The basic premise of the film is that Gil, played by Owen Wilson, is unhappy. While on vacation with his fiancee and soon-to-be-in-laws, Gil wanders off and, when the clock strikes midnight, is taken back to the 1920’s. That’s when the true, romantic writer in Gil, and in every English major in the film’s audience, begins a sort of protracted and guilt-free wet dream. Gil meets Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his crazy wife Zelda, Gertrude Stein, Picaso and a host of other notables that lived and worked and created in Paris during that time. Of course, there’s a love interest, who is integral in the self-discovery of our time-travelling hero, and the performances of the famous writers and painters are played with a cartoonish and exaggerated perfection that gives the movie enough laughs to stay light.
The acting of the movie is nearly perfect and the tone is well-set very early on. Some of the more obvious jokes everyone will get, but there were a few jokes and references that only a handful in the audience giggled at, the equivalent of standing up and shouting, “Yes, I’m an English major, and I’m also looking for a job, but at least I got that joke.” I’ve read everything Hemingway has written, and most of Fitzgerald’s stuff, and the obligatory Gertrude Stein novel. I even took a class that was based around these writer’s and the “Lost Generation’s” literature, poetry, art and music, all of which featured in the movie. The film, Woody Allen’s best showing in years and well-received in Europe, was probably a bit too mocking of Americansto be overly well-liked by anyone offended by being called a “Republican”. (Offended, you might be. Embarrassed, you should be)
If you’ve got the money and the time and even a mild interest in the Golden Age, and when that ever was and if there ever was one, go see this film. If you’d rather see CGI explosions, Transformers is also in theaters. But “Midnight in Paris” is going to be much more clever and enjoyable. You may just even leave inspired to write a novel.