Midnight in Paris, written and directed by Woody Allen, is a delightful romantic comedy and another of Allen’s meditations on the relationship between art and life, this time with time-travel in the mix. Want to see Ernest Hemingway speaking exactly the way he wrote? Kathy Bates holding forth as Gertrude Stein? Want to see an insufferable pseudo-intellectual get his comeuppance, and the right couple go walking off together in Paris in the rain?
Gil (Owen Wilson), a successful screenwriter visits Paris with his fiance, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her family. Gil dreams of moving to Paris to finish his novel about a man who opens a nostalgia shop. Inez wants her parents to help her talk sense into Gil and get him to settle down in Malibu. Gil wants Inez to walk with him in Paris in the rain. Inez tells him not to be silly, they would get wet.
After a wine tasting with Paul (Michael Sheen), the sort of pompous know-it-all that Allen loves to parody, Gil decides to walk home by himself. At the stroke of midnight, an old-time car pulls up beside Gil. Revelers invite him in and transport him to a party where he meets F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who introduce him to Hemingway, who takes him to Gertrude Stein, who agrees to read his novel.
Even Inez notices how strangely Gil begins to act – sequestering himself to write by day and taking long walks at night. He tries to demonstrate how he travels into the past, but she stalks off just before midnight and misses the car when it pulls up. Gil meets Pablo Picasso and his beautiful mistress, Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who instantly captures his heart.
While shopping for furniture with Inez, Gil meets a sweet young antiques dealer, Gabrielle (Lea Seydoux), who shares his love of the 20’s and Cole Porter. He discovers a battered copy of Adriana’s diary and finds a loving passage describing himself. Returning to the past, he confesses his love to Adriana, who has left Picasso. That night an ancient coach pulls up to carry the pair to her Golden Age, La Belle Epoque. They stop at Moulin rouge and meet Toulouse Lautrec, Degas, and Paul Gauguin.
Adriana begs him to stay, but as Gil sees the famous painters dreaming of the Renaissance, he sees through his Golden Age illusion and decides to return to his present. On the way, he stops off to see Gertrude Stein, who has finished his novel. She likes it but thinks it needs a touch of the supernatural.
Back in his own time, he confronts Inez about her affair with Paul (Hemingway brought it to his attention). She and her family leave. Gil is left by himself in a storm, on his own, in the “ordinary” streets of Paris – which might not be so ordinary. He runs into Gabrielle who loves to walk in the rain and says she would like it very much if he walked her home.
My brief description does not do justice to story and all the whimsical sub-plots – like the detective that Inez’s father hires to follow Gil, who makes a wrong turn and winds up lost in the court of Louis XIV. This is a delightful movie. If the story seems at all intriguing, I guarantee you will laugh out loud during the movie and walk out with a smile on your face.