What’s the Big Deal with ‘Midnight in Paris?’

Courtesy of bonjourparis.com

So though it’s still small enough that you might not have yet seen it, Woody Allen‘s newest “Midnight in Paris” is making the rounds around the country. The film, a small production like all of Allen’s films, started out in very few art house theaters, only to spread to a high of 1,038 just a couple of weeks ago. The reason for this uncharacteristic expansion is that Allen’s newest is doing extremely well at the box office, so much so that it’s become his highest-grossing hit ever, passing the previous record-holder “Hannah and Her Sisters” this past weekend with a domestic total of 40.2 million so far.

The movie has somehow hit the jackpot garnering financial and critical success with a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics across the board are congratulating Allen on his best film in years and many are even predicting that it will take one of those beloved 5-10 Oscar spots they’ll be giving away this year.

I believe that all this praise is premature and, frankly, undeserved. For those of you who have already seen “Midnight in Paris,” your opinion probably doesn’t match up with mine, but I found the movie to be shallow, repetitive and predictable.

I took issue with quite in few points in Allen’s film. The hubbub over the twist (spoiler alert!) in which Owen Wilson‘s character Gil gets magically transported back to the ’20s era in Paris did not impress me as much as it did everyone else. I was enamored the first time it happened, seeing Gil meeting legendary literary icons like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. But after the third and fourth time — “Thomas Stearns Eliot? T.S. Eliot?” ad nauseum — it wasn’t cute or funny anymore, just another way of not having the plot really develop with any sort of depth.

Courtesy of ew.com

And though I don’t have a problem with dessert films, I just don’t really see why it’s being predicted as the first Oscar film of the year. Usually when films get Oscar attention early in the year, it’s because they’re so great — like “The Hurt Locker” in 2009 that went on to win the big prize — not because they’re cute and have a high-profile filmmaker backing them. I also think the Oscar speculation is premature given the bottom-heavy second half of  the year we’re heading into, with a lot of highly anticipated films already having firm release dates in the prime of Oscar season.

I don’t claim to be an expert on Woody Allen films. I’ve seen a handful, mostly what are considered to be his best ones, but I don’t claim to know all the ins and outs of his work. What I can say I’ve noticed is that Allen seems to be a filmmaker interested in character and the internal workings of one or two characters’ minds per film. When I left the theater after “Midnight in Paris,” I could only compare it to my favorite Allen film “The Purple Rose of Cairo.” Both deal with the dangers of living in a fantasy world compounded by the evils of reality and people in our everyday lives. But where in ‘Purple Rose’ Cecilia can’t win, Gil in ‘Midnight’ feels that he can make a fantasy world in his reality. Maybe Allen is getting sentimental in his old age, but Gil went from being stupidly naive to just a little bit naive as his journey — not necessarily an interesting one for viewers.

And since so many have brought it up before me, I will just barely mention the shallow nature of Rachel McAdams‘ character Inez. This woman has no redeeming or interesting qualities, and it was shocking to me how Gil only thought they weren’t “right for each other” at the end of the film; he still didn’t seem to notice that she was just a total, heinous bitch.

I know that I’m a minority in this opinion, and I understand why ‘Midnight’ is making a lot of money at the box office. It’s accessible to the masses (unlike most Allen films), fun and frolicking, with a touch of escapism for those who know the history of Paris in the ’20s. If that were where the story ended, I don’t think I’d have anything to say. But the  fact that journalists are latching on to any Oscar story they can find — since this first half of the year has been practically devoid of anything that will go the Oscar distance — is pathetic. If they just took a look at the films coming out from September on, they’d know there will be Oscar stories a-plenty for those who wait.

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Comments

  1. ~~I’ve heard so many things about this film….My friend said she and hubby went to see it and it was FABulous!
    I think Woody is a genius…I loved Exteriors! Loved ut!
    ——But I really think he’s an aquired taste.
    Great reviews here.
    Coming to you via LBS…I’ll be back!

Trackbacks

  1. […] for the award season. Some are saying “Midnight in Paris” is a contender, but I hated that one. “Moneyball” has all the star power with Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour […]

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