Midnight in Paris

Manhattan meets Back to the Future meets Before Sunset. The story is thin, more of a short story subject than a novel. Not enough to flesh out an entire movie. It’s concept-driven rather than character-driven. The concept being that when we let nostalgia light up the past we become blind to the beauty of the present. We romanticize the good ole days at the expense of living fully in the now.

I would have enjoyed it more if Owen Wilson hadn’t channeled Woody Allen throughout. I realize that Woody Allen is the main character in all his films and now he has to have younger actors play his character. But it was distracting. Not only does Owen Wilson never find his own center in the character but he (or his character) lacks the full range of Woody Allen’s neuroses. So Owen Wilson’s character, Gil, really does seem to be “missing” something; he never seems whole or completely present.

All the great bits come from the supporting players. The conversation with Man Ray (Tom Cordier), Dali (Adrien Brody), and Buñuel (Adrien de Van) was laugh-out-loud brilliant. So was the conversation between Gil and Adriana (Marion Cotillard) about his relationship with his fiance, Inez.

I didn’t think much of the central conflict. Should Gil marry Inez (Rachel McAdams) a woman with whom he has nothing in common except a love of pita bread? The bigger question is, how did these two ever meet much less fall in love and get engaged? You can’t imagine that so you can’t feel any anxiety about the demise of their relationship. They don’t have a relationship. What if Gil had been engaged to Adriana instead? Then Gil would have had to choose between a beautiful, understanding woman in the present time and his fascination with historical figures and nostalgia for a past Golden Age. That would have been a conflict.

Seeing Paris brought to mind the last scenes of The Accidental Tourist. Now there were three interesting characters. All three had faults as well as virtues. All three had deep-set inner conflicts and complicated feelings for each other. No matter how it turned out, someone was going to get hurt and no one was going to be unreservedly happy. It made you care.

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