Best Picture Nominees — Midnight in Paris
by Stephanie Halovanic | University of Missouri
ABOUT THE SERIES — With the the Oscars less than one week away, we at NextGen are helping you prepare. Watch the Best Picture nominees you haven’t seen along with us as we review each one in the two weeks leading up to the Academy Awards. The 2012 Best Picture nominees include: The Help, The Descendants, Midnight in Paris, The Artist, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Hugo, Moneyball, The Tree of Life and War Horse.
Midnight in Paris
The Best Picture Nominee Midnight In Paris stole the heart of many this past summer. The title alone, coupled with the fact that the film was directed by the one and only Woody Allen, was enough to draw people to the theaters. The first few minutes of the film simply display notable parts of Paris while a classic French tune plays. As an admirer of Paris myself, the opening brings to mind the wonderful feeling you are drowned in when walking the streets of the city. From Montmartre to the sight of the Seine, you get a feel for the ambiance and historical radiance of the city with these lovely scene shots.
Owen Wilson plays the character of Gil who accompanies his fiancé Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, on a business trip with her parents to Paris. Inez is exceptionally unappreciative of the beauty of Paris, whereas Gil cannot stop talking about how wonderful it would be to move there one day. After opting for a walk home instead of going out dancing with Inez and friends, an inebriated Gil is coerced into a vintage car where he is swooped into an unusual adventure. These jovial, drinking passengers take him to a classy nightclub where both the audience and Gil begin to notice that something is different — there has been a change in time period. These assumptions are solidified when Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald greet Gil.
The cheerful and friendly Fitzgeralds go on to introduce him to their ominous and noticeably drunk friend Ernest Hemingway. The humor comes in the normalcy which with all of these distinguished artists communicate with one another and Gil’s subsequent confusion as to where in the world he is. An aspiring novelist himself, Gil asks Hemingway if he will read what he has written thus far. Hemingway agrees to have his good friend and trusted critic Gertrude Stein take a look at Gil’s work.
Flabbergasted, Gil runs home immediately to grab his manuscript, only to return to the bar and find nothing more than a laundromat. Gil comes to discover that each night at the stroke of midnight, this mysterious vintage vehicle will pick him up in a Parisian alleyway, escorting him to the roaring twenties.
Already bitter about Gil’s seemingly childish craze for the streets of Paris and all that they are home to, Inez does not take a liking to Gil’s attempts to explain what he has seen. After trading worlds each night, he is utterly inspired to work on his novel, choosing to work rather than attend the touristy activities Inez and her parents have scheduled. Rarely cast as an unlikeable character, McAdams portrays Inez perfectly, with a lack of wonder and awe at one of the most beautiful cities in the world that you cannot help but be frustrated by. Although it is certainly not the norm to find a time-transporting car and have a drink with Zelda Fitzgerald, Paris undoubtedly radiates a sense of passion and imagination. In the lyrics of Jonathan Richman’s song “Give Paris One More Chance,”
“The home of Piaf and Chevalier,
Must have done something right to get passion that way.
If you don’t think Paris was made for love,
Give Paris one more chance.”
A most enchanting part of this film is the way that it breaks down these epic artistic idols as normal people with great ideas, opinions and personalities. When we think of Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali in modern times, we view them as stagnant, almost statuesque figures. Midnight in Paris does a tremendous job bringing the lively personalities of these artistic geniuses to life.
One of the scenes that best shows this is the one in which Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso argue over the way that Picasso portrayed his mistress, Adriana, in a painting. They argue as friends with opposing opinions, rather than in the way scholars would debate these same things today. These members of “The Lost Generation” talk to and about each other so nonchalantly, like any other group of friends — the effect is simply charming to watch.
Gil develops an undeniable attraction for Picasso’s mistress Adriana. As they become closer, Gil learns that in the same way he is nostalgic for the 1920s, Adriana longs for Paris at the turn of the century. When Gil and Adriana are strolling the streets of Paris one night, a horse and carriage pick them up and take them back to the 1890s Belle Époque. Adriana is possessed by this same sense of delight and cure for her nostalgia that Gil feels in the twenties. They find themselves at the Moulin Rouge talking with Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas, who argue with them that the Renaissance is truly the golden age.
This sparks the bicker between these three generations as to what is the true golden age, with each group believing that its respective time period is dull and romanticizing the previous generation. Gil has the epiphany that everyone thinks his or her present is dull, but everyone’s present is someone’s past and every past and future is someone’s present. The question, then, is what will he do with his present?
Midnight in Paris explores the dissatisfaction present in every generation, always longing for another time. What the film highlights is that nostalgia is often coded with a sort of optimism — the whole idea that the grass is greener on the other side. You leave this film feeling a connection with people of generations past, generations you always thought had it a little better, or even a little worse, than you. This sort of romanticizing the past is something each generation falls victim to, and this film truly displays this frustration in an understandable, relatable and entertaining way.Stephanie, a fashion writer for NGJ, is currently an international journalism student at the University of Missouri. She hopes to pursue a career writing and editing for Vogue editions around the world, and plans to eventually work on international documentaries. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Stephanie has studied abroad in countries such as Brazil, Spain, and France. She enjoys Kenny G and a good steak dinner.