‘Midnight in Paris’ starts with some very nice scenery and some rather too loud jazzy music. I quite like jazz in its place, and when I thought this was going to be the background to opening titles, I didn’t mind it at all. But no titles appeared, and the music became louder as the images of Paris continued for much longer than we’d have expected as an opening sequence. We had to turn the sound down at one point as the high notes were almost screechingly loud.
Then the story starts. We meet an American family who are visiting Paris. The parents - caricatured materialistic types - are there for business; their daughter Inez (Rachel McAdams) decided to tag along, as did her fiancé Gil (Owen Wilson). Right from the start they seem like an ill-matched pair; he’s evidently a romantic, who loves the nostalgic feel of Paris, and the beauty of the buildings. He wonders if they could live there after they’re married; but Inez doesn’t want to live anywhere other than the United States.
Gil is a successful Hollywood scriptwriter, and Inez appears to care more for his success and wealth than for him as a person. She’s rather scathing about his current project of writing a novel, although he’s easy-going and seems to brush off her negativity. Still, when she decides to go dancing with some old friends, he says he’d rather go for a walk, as Paris is so romantic at night. He manages to get himself lost, and sits down for a rest just before the clock strikes midnight…
...at which point an old-fashioned car arrives and he’s persuaded to get inside. The situation gradually becomes surreal, as he finds himself amongst people whose novels he has admired… apparently he’s gone back in time to the 1920s, an era he believes reflects the glories of literature. I thought this was supposed to be a dream sequence at first, but he repeats the experience the following day, meeting famous artists as well as writers, and a very attractive girl…
I had to accept that, essentially, it’s a surreal plot, which includes time travel but without any worries about the potential problems. Whether or not these forays into the past were a dream, or a subconscious wish, or reality (so to speak) is left open. But the contrast is made between Gil’s romantic nature and Inez’s materialistic side; as he becomes more inspired to write, given advice by people who care, and begins to fall for the girl in the 1920s, his relationship with Inez deteriorates rapidly. And thank goodness for that - right from the start I was hoping they would break up.
There’s an underlying message or theme to the film: being contented with one’s own era, taking life as it comes, going with one’s heart. There’s some humour, nicely mixed in with the story; once or twice we even chuckled aloud. The scenery and filming are gorgeous, the costumes stunning, and despite the oddness of the storyline, I was left feeling both nostalgic and uplifted.
Rated 12; basically due to several sexual references, although there’s nothing explicit, no violence, and no nudity. Mild language. Unlikely to be of interest to anyone under the age of about fifteen or sixteen anyway; it’s necessary to know the names of at least some of the best-known artists and writers from the 1920s in order to get the point of the forays into the past.
Recommended, if you like character-driven stories that are light, slow moving and somewhat thought-provoking. It's only 90 minutes long, but quite intense; the length felt exactly right.
Review by Sue F copyright 2015 Sue's DVD Reviews