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Thoughts On Midnight In Paris

A screen shot from Midnight In Paris, of F Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald

Screen shot from Midnight In Paris, copyright © 2011 Warner Brothers.

This won’t be a review because I’m not good at reviewing films, but I wanted to discuss Midnight In Paris because it got me thinking. Due to the style of this post there will be spoilers.

Woody Allen’s film has a premise to appeal to readers – the wannabe novelist, fond of what he knows of 1920s Paris, finds himself time travelling at night. Allen never goes overboard with the references, he includes a couple of very famous artists from different mediums but also lesser-known ones, too. Yes, it’s exciting to wonder who Gil will meet next, but it’s evident Allen’s focus is on Gil’s discovery of who he wants to be.

I must be honest and say that if the opening sequence had been just that bit longer I would’ve stopped watching. The sentiment was obvious, showing both the glory and averageness of Paris, an intimation of what will later present itself to be Gil’s preference (Paris in the rain) but the length was unnecessary. It didn’t represent the time Gil had spent in Paris, and it just didn’t strike me as an inviting way to begin a film.

I loved the way time-travel was used, as well as Gil’s reaction to it. In a way, it was more magical realism than fantasy because although it was far-fetched, it was never glamorised. (This links in with the focus being on Gil.) Gil’s fanboy excitement worked because there wasn’t too much of it – it was in ‘spits and spots’ – and it gelled with Owen Wilson’s general acting style. It never tried to be too much. I also love that a person went to their preferred period and that the periods weren’t far in the past (excepting the detective who I’ll talk about at the end).

I think it was a miss to have Adriana’s diary and her interest in Gil, and then have her choose to remain in 1800s Paris, assuming that, like Gil, she could go back again. It was just so sudden and suggested she didn’t care much about him. The conversation about golden ages was poignant, however, and I like that after all the spotlight on his romance, Gil chose his own passion over Adriana’s.

Film image

I do wonder if Gil would’ve pondered publishing his book alongside his heroes. Maybe he went back again, though surely the suggestion is that he didn’t and didn’t ‘need’ to. It’s not that I think he had to go back, but I think he would have wondered. And I loved that it can be assumed Gil’s manuscript was written in such a way that one needn’t worry that his heroes couldn’t understand it. In another film that could have been a big flaw, but here it was obvious what sort of books he liked and wrote.

My last point, then, and this is something I’ve thought about since reading a discussion on IMDB (no longer available): what about the detective? He’s not a villain, so one can’t say the guards chasing him was justice. It’s more that the scene was a good intimation of what might have happened during the French Revolution. Obviously the Revolution was the detective’s favourite period. We don’t know why, but assuming time-travel works the same for everyone, that would be the case. We can assume the man got back to the 2000s, and I couldn’t help but think that this scene was purely for entertainment.

I really liked this film, it was a literary and time-travel treat. And the lack of plot detail, evidently part of the idea, made me think.

Have you seen Midnight In Paris? What did you think of it?



May 10, 2013, 10:02 am

I watched this film a month or so ago when it was shown Sky movies and really enjoyed it. The film wasn’t what I thought it was going to be at all! I am fascinated by the 1920s so I loved the time-travel and star spotting but your right they got the balance right so it still felt natural. I just viewed the detective scene as purely for entertainment not as a punishment.

Laurie C

May 10, 2013, 11:29 am

I guess I should watch this again, because I’ve forgotten some parts. I liked it, but apparently the details of the plot didn’t stick with me!

jenn aka the picky girl

May 10, 2013, 3:22 pm

I can’t believe I still haven’t watched this movie. Maybe this weekend??

I’ve heard such great things about it and like the elements you point out. I am drawn to time travel, especially when it doesn’t take itself too seriously.


May 10, 2013, 6:18 pm

I don’t know this film, but it sounds like something I would enjoy. I’ve watched several Woody Allen films, although it’s been a while, and used to enjoy them a lot. And… time travel? Yes please!


May 11, 2013, 12:30 am

I saw this film and sort of found it annoying! My husband loved it however, and most people get all ga-ga over Woody Allen. Actually, I think I have really liked every OTHER one of his movies that I have seen, but not this one. In any event, I am not really an Owen Wilson fan so that probably prejudiced me!


May 12, 2013, 4:33 pm

I watched this when it first came out and enjoyed it. As a SF reader, I try not to dwell too much on the sketchy rules most under-two-hours movies give for the way their time traveling works, but I did like the idea of the golden age. Also, having been to Paris once, it was a lovely look back at the stories and authors that made me want to go see those actual streets and vistas.


June 17, 2013, 2:57 pm

Jessica: Here, too, I thought it was going to be more bog-standard fantasy, but it didn’t disappoint! It definitely helps to like the era.

Laurie: I’m trying to decide if it would make a good re-watch, thinking there’s probably more to ‘find’ in it a second time.

Jenn: You should. I really needs to be on an ultimate bookish film list or something (oh hello blog post idea). Yes, the time travel is just… there. It happens and that’s it, the ‘how’ isn’t the focus.

Judith: I can’t vouch for similarity as I can’t say for certain whether I’ve seen any of his other films, but this is a must-watch for readers.

Rhapsody: As soon as I read your first sentence I thought ‘Owen Wilson?’ This is actually one of very few films I’ve been able to watch, that he’s in, without being put-off. He toned it down quite a bit, I’d say, but there were times when I wished they’d picked someone else.

Jeanne: Yes, there weren’t really any technical details, but then, to use your situation, if you’re used to time travel it can be overlooked. The focus was elsewhere and it would’ve taken time from the fun to explain the travelling.



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