Although my blog is devoted to films of the 1930s and ‘40s, there are many, many more recent films that I love too. Midnight in Paris is one of them. The 2011 film is a fantasy/comedy.
I love this movie! It is clever, creative, imaginative, entertaining—it’s just wonderful. The film is about an LA screenwriter Gil Pender (wonderfully portrayed by Owen Wilson) who hates his job. He has written a novel, but he doesn’t know if it’s any good. He had been to Paris before and always regretted not taking “a real shot at being a writer.” By the end of the film, he decides to stay in Paris and take that “shot.”
He visits Paris, along with his fiancé and her parents. And again falls in love with the city. One night, when he’s roaming the city alone, he hears a tower clock chime midnight. Suddenly, a beautiful vintage car from the 1920s stops by Pender. A group of people in the car (dressed in clothes from the 1920s) invite him to a party and he joins them. They take him to a 1920s home where the guests are celebrating Jean Cocteau’s birthday and Pender meets Cole Porter, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Pender is dazed. He’s not sure what’s going on. He leaves the party with the Fitzgeralds and Porter heading to another party where Pender watches Josephine Baker dance and sing.
After a while, we realize that Pender has accepted these adventures, enjoying them and no longer questioning them. The night ends when Pender and the Fitzgeralds stop at a bistro where Pender meets his idol—Ernest Hemingway.
Pender is blown away meeting Hemingway. Flabbergasted, he tells him about his novel asking if he would read it. Hemingway responds he won’t read it but will give Pender’s manuscript to Gertrude Stein. “She’s the only one I trust with my work,” Hemingway explains.
Pender is over the moon. “You’ll give my novel to Gertrude Stein?” he asks, stunned. As a writer myself, this scene resonates deeply with me. It would be as if an editor at a publishing company raved about a novel I wrote. I, too, would be in a euphoric trance, so excited, so thrilled, so blown away. Midnight in Paris touches me deeply and inspires me. That’s why I can watch the film over and over again.
The following night, after the tower chimes midnight again, Pender steps into another vintage car with Hemingway in the back seat. They go to Gertrude Stein’s home where Pender meets Picasso and his mistress/model Ariadne. Pender is immediately attracted to her.
A few nights later, when Pender and Adriana are walking the streets of Paris, an elegant horse-drawn hansom cab stops by them, The couple in the cab (dressed in the clothes of the 1890s) invites them to come with them to the Moulin Rouge. Pender and Ariadne go—and they meet Toulouse Lautrec, Gauguin and Degas. Ariadne falls in love with the Paris of the 1890s and decides to stay there.
Meanwhile, Pender’s future in-laws grow suspicious of his nighttime wanderings and hire a detective to see what he’s up to. But when Pender learns that his fiancé was having an affair with a professor, he is forced to realize that his relationship with his materialistic fiancé was just not going to work out. He decides to break his engagement and stay in Paris.
The ending scene is charming. It’s nighttime and Pender stands on a bridge looking out at the Seine when a young Frenchwoman—who Pender had met earlier at a nostalgia shop where she works—suddenly appears on the bridge. They are obviously attracted to each other and seem in sync. Pender offers to buy her coffee and they walk into the night when it starts raining. The woman says, “Paris is most beautiful in the rain.” Pender wholeheartedly agrees as they walk away together.
This film exudes a love affair with Paris. I’ve always wanted to visit the city. After seeing Midnight in Paris that desire has increased a million times.
“Life’s a little unsatisfying,” Pender comments. I agree. We may sometimes feel out of sync with our current era—that we might have liked living at another time. This film takes us on a journey to the City of Lights and lets us experience another era and time through the eyes of the writer, Pender. What an inspiration to the “what if’s” of life?
You can tell I’ve fallen in love with this movie. It is so creative, imaginative, wonderfully entertaining, beautifully written and beautifully acted—Midnight in Paris is simply a wonderful experience.
I urge you to see Midnight in Paris—it’s available online. If you do, I hope the film delights and charms you as much as it does me.