“Midnight in Paris” (2011). Cast: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy, Nina Arianda, Léa Seydoux, Corey Stoll, Tom Hiddleston, Alison Pill, Yves Heck, Marcial Di Fonzo Bo, Adrien de Van, Serge Bagdassarian, Gad Elmaleh, Sonia Rolland, Daniel Lundh, David Lowe, Yves-Antoine Spoto, Vincent Menjou Cortes, Olivier Rabourdin, François Rostain. Director: Woody Allen. Screenplay: Woody Allen. www.sonyclassics.com/midnightinparis/
The City of Lights has long inspired artists of all kinds. Its magical energy has helped birth the works of writers, painters and performers, giving rise to all manner of creative brilliance. And now the mystique behind that phenomenon has come to the screen in a delightful new comedy, Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”
Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is lost and disillusioned. As a self-acknowledged Hollywood hack, he longs to escape his shackles and write serious literature in the same vein as his idols, most of whom came to prominence through the thriving literary scene of 1920s Paris. So, without hesitation, he jumps at the chance to visit the fabled city when he and his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) are invited to accompany her parents (Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy) on a vacation to the iconic French metropolis.
Once in Paris, Gil is captivated by the city. He’s in his element and wants to immerse himself in it to the fullest. But while he finds himself increasingly in synch with the Parisian milieu, he also discovers he’s becoming ever more out of synch with his fiancée, her family and her self-important friends (Michael Sheen, Nina Adrianda). They behave like stereotypical Americans, treating their Parisian experience like they’re visiting an overgrown theme park, seeing all the requisite tourist sights and purchasing overpriced souvenirs, rather than engrossing themselves in the city’s rich, sophisticated ambiance. So it’s not long before Gil abandons his travelling companions to go exploring on his own. What ensues is an urban adventure that leads him down an unexpected and enchanting path, a journey that begins with a simple midnight walk.
While returning to his hotel, Gil encounters a group of partygoers dressed in 1920s garb. He joins them for what he thinks is an invitation to a costume party, but he soon discovers that the festivities have an authenticity that’s a little too realistic to be the creation of an overzealous party planner. It’s then that he realizes he has somehow been whisked across time to the era he so adores.
As improbable as his circumstances might seem at first, Gil quickly embraces them, especially when he meets such luminaries as F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), T.S. Eliot (David Lowe) and Cole Porter (Yves Heck), among others. He’s quite taken by this new reality, particularly when he sees the favorable impact it has on his writing and his overall outlook on life. He also becomes smitten with the fair Adriana (Marion Cotillard), an aspiring fashion designer and intermittent mistress of Picasso, who becomes a sort of muse for the would-be novelist. Before long, Gil truly believes he’s found the life he’s meant to live. He plans to ditch his 21st Century existence for the Jazz Age—that is, until he learns Adriana also pines for an era different from the one into which she was born, the Belle Époch of 1890s Paris, a time she covets as much as the one that Gil so long craved. A new temporal disconnect thus arises, prompting Gil to seriously ponder what he should do next.
Anyone who has ever been creatively blocked can certainly appreciate Gil’s circumstances. The frustration that comes from being unable to express oneself, despite strong but undefined urges to the contrary, can lead to a desperate search for inspiration. And that’s why the energizing effects that come from finding it—or even the belief that one has found it—seem so thoroughly satisfying.
Reaching that point may seem like an impossible task when we’re blocked, but it need not be as long as we remain open to the idea that it’s attainable by shifting the beliefs that create the reality we experience. Gil realizes his goal once he drops the limitations that hold him back, and the results are astounding; if it’s possible to dissolve barriers seemingly as impenetrable as those associated with time, imagine what results are achievable when the walls impeding creative expression are felled. Through the example set by Gil’s temporal shifts, it’s apparent that the reality we create and experience need not be the fixed, rigid phenomenon we often expect it to be; instead, it’s more fluid, malleable to our liking, depending on whatever beliefs we put into its materialization.
One can only begin to imagine what’s possible once that happens. All sorts of new creative expressions are conceivable, including everything from the works of art we produce to the very conditions of our daily existence. Through this, we’re also likely to find that we come into greater alignment with our lives, especially in crucial areas like destiny and value fulfillment. And, in that regard, the sky truly is the limit, depending upon how daring we’re willing to be and what we’ll allow ourselves to experience.Of course, the realizations we come to while living out such experiences may surprise us as well, which can tell us much about the beliefs we didn’t know we held. For instance, just when we think we’ve manifested our ideal expression of reality, we might find that it’s not the be-all-and-end-all that we thought it would be. We may discover that a particular attainment is just one of many destinations along a continuous path of achievements, a stopover on the journey of reality creation, the constant state of becoming with which conscious creation practitioners are so familiar.
We might also find that a particular reality construct is disillusioning or even unsatisfying. This can be especially true for those who envision themselves living in other eras or alternate realities. In doing so, we may view such existences from overly romanticized perspectives, and these fantasies can come crashing down hard around us if they don’t live up to what we hope for. Such realizations, however, can also open new doors. For example, paying a visit to an alternate reality may provide just the inspiration we need when it’s lacking, but staying there is an entirely different matter. Visiting the past, for instance, is not the same as living there. Knowing how to draw from the inspiration such experiences provide, and then letting them go, rather than becoming trapped by them, is the key for making the most of them. Conscious creators are well aware of this, acutely knowledgeable that the true point of power is in the present moment. Those who have experiences where this realization becomes apparent—even if in a back-handed way—may ultimately discover a whole new sense of personal empowerment that they hadn’t previously thought possible. (Now that’s a creation.)
“Midnight in Paris” is easily one of the best films Woody Allen has made in years. It’s charming, thoughtful and inspiring, going beyond the fluffy romantic comedy label that so many have casually slapped on it. It’s a well-crafted period piece, with fine production values and wonderful performances. It also shows off Paris beautifully, with its gorgeous cinematography doing for this French gem what the director’s films have long done for New York. Granted, like all of Allen’s movies, the script of this one is a tad talky at times, but that’s easily overlooked given everything else the picture has to offer.
All of us have our “Paris” moments, to be sure, and we should allow ourselves to experience them without reservation, for we’ll never know what they’ll yield until we plunge ourselves into them. This movie provides a superb example of what’s possible if we follow that path, one that can lead us to our own shining City of Lights.
Copyright © 2011, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.