There is not a person alive who has not thought at one time or another that they would love to live in a different time or era. For some it’s the time of Jane Austen, as they, tired of 21st century hook-ups, long with tear filled eyes for a “Mr. Darcy”. Or it’s Shakespeare’s England so seemingly full of inspiration for art. For some it’s the renaissance, others the 1960’s and 70’s where the Beatles music reigned supreme and Justin Bieber was….well he actually wasn’t.
For Gil Porter, the protagonist in the new Woody Allen Film, “Midnight in Paris“,the time is Paris in the 1920’s. His artistic side longs for the inspiration that fueled the likes of Hemingway and F.Scott Fitzgerald. In the movie, his fantasy becomes reality as he goes back in time seamlessly, escaping his ” ugly American” future in-laws, a shallow opportunist of a fiancée, and the expectations of both of those on his present life.
In ‘real life’ Gil is a somewhat successful Hollywood screenwriter in the middle of trying to pen a novel and experiencing a block in creativity (which is easy to understand when one is observing the horrors that will surely be his future given what he’s planning to marry). The trip to Paris awakens the creativity and romance in him. In his travel back in time he meets a Gertrude Stein who reads his novel and gives suggestions, a Hemingway who encourages him, and a Dali and an F. Scott Fitzgerald with whom he shares parties, pleasantries and drinks.
Like any of us who are nostalgic for a different time, Gil experiences his version of the people he admires, not the reality. Nostalgia doesn’t mean we long for the real past, we long for the past that we have created, the one that helps us escape our current reality. The film does this well, for just as Gil has a longing for a different life in a different era, so do some of those he meets along the way. The difference? Their reality is Gil’s nostalgic fantasy. Their stress of the twenties longs for La Belle Époque in the 19th Century. We long for what we imagine and can’t have.
Just as I don’t want my periods of nostalgia to end, I didn’t want this film to end. It is beautifully done with period costuming from the 1920’s and scenes of Paris that made me want to take Cliff’s hand and run to Terminal E, booking the first flight to Paris. It is cinema at it’s best with a creative plot, great acting, and scenes that stay in your mind and make you smile.
But best of all is the self-reflection that I often walk away from with a Woody Allen film. In this case, a realization that the bittersweet longing that is the very definition of nostalgia is okay to indulge in occasionally, but a steady diet takes away from the opportunity of the present.
- Midnight in Paris reviewed: Owen Wilson is a charming Woody Allen. (slate.com)
- Movie Review | ‘Midnight in Paris’: Kicking the Old Ennui With the Lost Generation (movies.nytimes.com)
- ET Movie Review: ‘Midnight In Paris’ (charlotte.news14.com)