Movies I Shouldn’t Have Watched: Midnight In Paris

It’s been my opinion for a while now that you either love Woody Allen and the “films” he puts out or you don’t. I fall into the latter category. If you love Woody Allen flicks then this movie is for you. Watch it and bathe in the glory that is Allen. That being said, Woody fans should also stop reading this review. It could get ugly from here on out.

I can see the pitch meeting/ lunch for this movie perfectly.
“So I got this new idea for a movie.”
“Oh yeah? Hit me with it, Woody.”
“Get this. Paris in the 20’s. I’m talking about F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, Eliot, Picasso. All of ‘em. Oh, and there’s Owen Wilson.”
“What’s Owen doing?”
“Walking.”
“Walking?”
“Yeah, that’s the best part. See, he walks around Paris until Midnight and he’s transported back in time somehow and meets all these writers who are his idols.”
“What happens?”
“He just hangs out with them.”
“That’s it? Where’s the story?”
“Did you miss the part about Paris in the 20’s?”
“No. I heard it. But there needs to be something more to it…something more substantial than just a bunch of cameos from dead artists.”
“It does? Well o.k…He’s walking. You know, trying to escape an overbearing fiancé or write a book or something. We can write that in later. But the coolest part is Paris in the 20’s.”
The executive thinks for a while. Mulls it over a good glass of whiskey. Then he says, “You have your green light, Gatsby.”

I’m not saying this movie was weak with paper thin story lines, or anything…no wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

The fact that MIP has gotten as much acclaim as it has goes to show the state of ruin that the entertainment industry is in. I’m serious. The movie was paper thin. The story is unabashedly cliché. And character development is nonexistent.

Owen Wilson plays a bumbling and somewhat stupid script writer who is unwholesomely obsessed with Paris in the 20’s. He’s so obsessed, in fact, that he doesn’t even see that his fiancé is cheating on him. Even though it’s painfully obvious to the audience and other characters and not subtly handled at all. When confronted, Owen’s character, Gil (who is suspiciously very Woody-ish), defends his cuckoldry by proclaiming, “It’s called denial.” No. It’s called poor writing.

It’s sad really, because the movie had such potential. Being a writer, one of my favorite types of movies are movies about writers. The concept behind MIP is actually very cool and the legendary writers and artists that thrived during that period continue to inspire us today. Unfortunately, the legendary characters were exactly that: characters. Cardboard cutouts would’ve been more relatable and had more depth to them than the poorly crafted writers and artists in MIP. I’m sure Fitzgerald and Hemmingway are rolling over in their graves for the affront.

All in all, I give the movie a “Wake Me When It’s Over”.

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About Universal Shift

I am the Sonata Unusual. I coat myself with some obtuse angle too far below zero to become any warmer. I create motivation, activate schemas, moisten gardens with scents of natural honeydew. Construct this meaning, you sleepy flock. Silence your singing—despairing contortions out of tune. Shatter the brittle butterfly glass with your hideous wailing. I am born of my god’s imagination. When I die I shall meet him. For there are many things to discuss over tea…or scotch.

Posted on January 9, 2012, in Author, Movies, writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. What I loved about this film (and while I am a Woody fan, I don’t love all his films) is the idea that everyone thinks the past is better and how that isn’t true. So often you hear people (especially those in the arts) saying they would have had more success in a different time.

    It’s a quiet movie and subtle, some would said very-European art house stuff. Woody really doesn’t do bold films with bold plots, per se. He asks a lot of little questions than a few big ones, typically about life and meaning. He always gets points for me for asking the big questions.

    Also, I’m not sure you can call it a Hollywood film or just Hollywood based on it. This was really made outside the system, Woody rarely works within it. It’s one of the reasons he is stuck working in Europe, they have the only investors who will financially back up his movies anymore.

  2. Thanks for the insight! I noticed the theme of nostalgia in the movie and actually thought it was one of its redeeming qualities. Especially when Gauguin is talking about wanting to live in the Renaissance after Adrianne and Gil go into the past because Adrianne wanted to live in Gauguin’s time.

  3. I straddle that Woody Allen love/hate line. I loved his early stuff, hated the later stuff, and then had to begrudgingly give him props for a few of his more recent works. That said, I liked MIP. True, it wasn’t great writing. But I enjoyed the fantasy for the simple reason that I’m a writer and can imagine what it might be like to mingle with the freewheeling and tortured scribes we now call great.

    • The fantasy in the movie is what got me through to the end. It was a cool idea. I know what you mean about imagining mingling with our heroes. Personally, I’d spend my midnight on the road with Jack Kerouac.

      • Yes! Kerouac! (He’s actually a distant relation of mine through my Québecois roots.) My mom was part of the Beat scene and turned me on to it early, when I was too young to appreciate it fully. It was JK’s wanderlust that grabbed me early.

        But it wasn’t until a few years ago when I heard Matt Dillon’s reading of On the Road in audiobook format that I fully appreciated JK.

      • A child of the Beat scene? That’s the coolest thing I’ve read all day. On The Road pulled me in instantly. Caught me up in a whirlwind love affair with the Beat Generation that inspired many of my own adventures.

      • My mom, a first-generation American of Hungarian and Sicilian parents, dated Frank Sinatra briefly (against her will, incidentally) in the early 40’s, before marrying my Québecois-descended father (after the war) for his clear-blue, Frank-like eyes. But she was a rebel; her millionaire, Hollywood-connected father had her committed to the state hospital for “her nervous condition” (see Frances Farmer). There the doctors experimented on her with promising new psychotropic drugs, namely LSD. My father divorced her and kept us kids. My mom, after her release, was left with an addiction, and turned to the Bohemian, alternate lifestyle of the day (read Beat scene), where she acquired a number of “scandalous” habits, such as marijuana, jazz, and a biracial relationship with a black soldier. As a kid I wasn’t supposed to know about any of this, but it wasn’t hard to figure out. I had a blast on weekend visits with her, becoming quite precocious in the process!

      • Now why couldn’t Woody have made a movie about your story? That, I would’ve definitely watched (and probably bought the DVD too).

      • LOL!

        I’m toying with writing something after she’s gone (she’s 84 now). But I haven’t decided if I should write a biography, my own memoir, or a historical fiction; which in descending order require less scrupulous research and accuracy. I don’t see eye to eye with all of my four older siblings, and I expect a few to challenge anything I write about my mother. (For instance, while doing my genealogy four years ago, I discovered that my Hungarian grandmother was actually a Hungarian Jew. We haven’t told my mother or her 87-y.o. brother.) If I write a memoir, no one can sue for libel, because it is, by definition, my own recollections.

      • I’d think a memoir. I think it would be awesome to see it from such a unique perspective.

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