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Film / Midnight in Paris

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"If I could live anywhere, it would be a night in Paris in the 1920s."

Midnight in Paris is a 2011 romantic-fantasy-comedy film directed by Woody Allen.

Owen Wilson — the latest actor to be handed Allen's "screen persona" nebbish character — plays Gil, a hack but successful Hollywood screenwriter who dreams of writing novels. He and his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) are visiting Paris with her parents; Gil falls in love with the city while Inez dreams of living in a Malibu suburb. One night, as Inez and her friends go out dancing, Gil takes a walk and discovers a square where every night at midnight, a magic car shows up that transports him to 1920s Paris. Enamored with the culture and the famous historical figures he encounters, he continues to travel there, much to Inez's anger and suspicion.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

Midnight in Paris contains examples of:

  • An Aesop: The moral of the story is spoken out loud both in the beginning (by Paul) and in the end (by Gil).
  • The Anti-Nihilist: Gil finds his reality to be unsatisfying and his work as a Hollywood screenwriter to be worthless. He wishes to escape it all, and he does. However, he later concludes that there is no escape as life and present-day realities are always unsatisfying for everybody, and that's how one has to live. The story concludes with Gil, having decided to leave his "Golden Era", finally finding meaning and joy in his own contemporary era.
  • Artistic License – History: Actually, William Faulkner was one of the rather few significant American writers of the day who didn't travel to Paris. And Woody Allen got sued (unsuccessfully) by Faulkner's descendants for using his quote about the past not being past. Which is even more ironic given that this very quote, uttered by Gil and specifically attributed to Faulkner In-Universe, marked the only time Faulkner was mentioned in the film in any context.
  • Author Avatar: As is customary with Woody Allen films, main character Gil is a stand-in for Woody Allen, from the tucked-in shirts Gil wears to the nervous way Gil talks. He also leaves his fiancée and hooks up with a much younger woman. However, Allen himself noted that Owen Wilson was different from his usual actors mostly in that he was West Coast and WASP, whereas his usual heroes were more on the East Coast liberal intelligentsia side of the equation.
  • Author Appeal: In-Universe, Dali keeps relating every part of his conversation with Gil to rhinoceroses in some way.
  • Betty and Veronica: Played with. Inez has the position of a Betty (being Gil's fiancée from his time period) but the haughty Rich Bitch personality of a Veronica. Meanwhile, Adriana has the position of a Veronica (a vaguely-attached woman from the 1920s), but her connection to Gil over art puts her into the relatable Betty position.
  • Bilingual Bonus: It helps to have a working knowledge of French while watching this film. Spanish could come in handy too.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Ernest Hemingway.
  • Bookends: The film opens and closes with scenes of Paris in the rain.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Gil believes that he would have fit in with the writers and artists of 1920s Paris. He gets to go back and find out firsthand (and he actually does get along quite well with them). Further, he falls in love with Adriana, who believes this about herself with La Belle Epoquenote . Truthfully, this movie is a deconstruction of the trope, as it's clear to the audience and other cast from the beginning that Gil's real problem isn't modernity but something in himself.
  • Butch Lesbian: Gertrude Stein is the 1920s version of this trope, though her Real Life lesbianism is never brought up.
  • The Cameo: Name a member of the Lost Generation and they'll probably have shown up or have been name checked at some point in this movie.
  • Cassandra Truth: Gil tries to tell his fiancée about his experiences, leading her to think he may have a brain tumor. When he tries to tell the surrealists about his coming from the future, they think he's speaking metaphorically. When he tells Adriana, she's not really interested, having just travelled back to La Belle Epoque.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Gabrielle the antique dealer.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Salvador Dalí. He and his surrealist buddies are so out there that not only do they not question Gil's claim of being a time traveler, they find it perfectly unremarkable.
    • Gil is also seen as this by Inez and her parents.
  • Covers Always Lie: In the poster, Owen Wilson (Gil) is shown walking by the Seine with a background of Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night. Vincent Van Gogh and his work doesn't appear in the movie.
  • Darkhorse Victory: Throughout the whole movie, the audience wonders if Gil will choose Inez or Adriana, but the final answer the film offers is less predictable.
  • Dashing Hispanic: Juan Belmonte, the Toreador (bullfighter).
  • Disposable Fiancé: It quickly becomes clear that Gil would be better off without Inez, she dismisses all of his thoughts or opinions, openly insults or criticizes Gil to her friends right in front of him and doesn’t share any of his interests, the final straw for Gil is finding out that she cheated on him and he breaks up with her.
  • Double Standard: while viewing art at a museum, Inez unquestioningly listens to all of Paul’s pseudo-intellectual claims about various pieces of art and shuts down all of Gils attempts to query Paul’s information, however when Gil gives a similar in depth description behind a Picasso (which is actually correct because he met the artist) she accuses him of being intoxicated.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Paul, for all his pedantic bluster, actually summarizes the struggle Gil goes through for most of the film early on.
  • Fanservice: Inez unloading luggage from the car.
  • Gay Paree: It's not revealed whether it's the real Gay Paree or an idealized version of it from Gil's perspective, though.
  • The Gay '90s: Adriana's "Golden Age."
  • Genre Mashup: It's a fantasy/romantic comedy/drama.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Gil giving Adriana his fiancee's jewelry to try to seduce her is not treated as a particularly bad thing to do, but Inez cheating on Gil is another matter. The difference, of course, is in entirely in which character the audience sympathizes with (which is this trope in a nutshell). The nail in Inez's coffin, though, is that, even after being confronted by Gil and admitting that she slept with Paul, she brushes it off with a "what's the big deal?" attitude and wants to continue planning their wedding.
  • Happy Rain: Gil loves it when it rains in Paris. Gabrielle does as well. Quite possibly Author Appeal. This is also brought up in Everyone Says I Love You.
  • Historical In-Joke: In spades.
  • I Choose to Stay:
    • The whole plot is basically a will-he-or-won't-he dilemma built around this trope. In the end, it's subverted, as Gil decides to return to his own era.
    • Played straight with Adriana in her own Golden Age.
  • Insufferable Genius: Subverted with Paul (the genius part, not the insufferable part). Inez thinks he's brilliant, but Gil, the tour guide and the audience know that he's not.
  • In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: The Movie. Several influential figures of the time, such as Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, turn up in Gil's travels to 1920s Paris. It's justified in that Gil goes to a famous tavern where artists congregated.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Gil gives Luis Buñuel the basic plot of The Exterminating Angel. Buñuel is puzzled.
    Buñuel: Why can't they leave?
  • It's All About Me: Inez, who doesn't seem to give a rat's ass about anything Gil says or wants.
  • It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars:invoked Gil is a writer of these kinds of films. He hates them, Inez and her parents love them.
  • Jerkass: Inez, her parents, and Paul. They have no qualms about openly ridiculing Gil even in his presence.
  • Karma Houdini: Inez and her parents are horrible to Gil throughout the movie, all of them constantly belittle him, the parents hire a private detective to spy on him and finally it is revealed that Inez cheated on him with Paul and fails to see why she would be at fault for this. The only repercussion from all of this is Gil breaking up with Inez, which her parents are actually pretty happy about and Inez treats as an annoyance. They are all still wealthy, privileged and dreadful people at the end of the movie.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Paul Bates, whom a museum guide refers to as "the pedantic gentleman". From what we hear of Gil's novel, there's a character based on him in it, Gertrude Stein's reference to "the pedantic one" is anything to go by.
  • Large Ham: Hemingway and Dalí. ...of course.
  • Magical Realism: It's never explained or even discussed how the time travel works, it's just there to provide the conflict necessary for the character to have his arc.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: The main character is a writer trying to put the finishing touches on his novel. About half the supporting cast are famous writers of the early 20th century.
  • Never My Fault: When Gil calls out Inez on sleeping with Paul, she admits it but never shows any remorse about cheating on her fiancé and acts as if she did nothing wrong and is outraged when Gil breaks up with her.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Gil, according to Inez, always sides with the help when she takes issue with one of them. He even comes to the aid of a tour guide when Paul starts trying to ”correct” her about who was Auguste Rodin’s wife.
  • Noodle Incident: Adriana tells Gil that she and her friends once hired a prostitute to "teach them what she knew." Gil seems torn between shock and amusement.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Gil and Inez are still not married, but Inez's parents act this way, openly ridiculing Gil, and John hires a private detective midway through the film to investigate Gil's strolls at night. When Gil breaks up with Inez in the end, John and Helen are actually happy about it.
  • Off with His Head!: The likely fate of the detective in 17th Century France.
  • Oh, Crap!: Gil gets this expression shortly after meeting Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and realizes that he has managed to time-travel back to the 1920s, however he quickly starts enjoying it.
  • Politically Correct History:
    • All the men in the 1920s treat the women with the same level of respect as other men. If you buy the idea that it's all in Gil's head, then this makes sense as it's his idealized version of the 1920s. Gertrude Stein's influence with and access to publishers and booksellers, i.e. ability to get struggling writers published, had a lot to do with the respect she got. However, if you were 'just' an artist model or girlfriend, then your opinions were more easily dismissed.
    • Cole Porter sings Bowdlerized lyrics for the first chorus of "Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)"] which wouldn't be written until the 1940s- the original lyrics were "Chinks do it, Japs do it, up in Lapland little Laps do it...".
  • Really Gets Around: Adriana.
    Gil: My God, you take 'art groupie' to a whole new level!
  • Recycled In Space: This film can be seen as Pleasantville for adults.
  • The Roaring '20s: The "Golden Age" for Gil.
  • Rich Bitch: Inez. She gets it from her mother.
  • Romantic Rain: At the end of the movie, Gil encounters Gabrielle, a young woman he has met before. They agree to stroll together at night in gentle rain.
  • Scenery Porn: The movie starts with several lovely shots of Paris. Every scene makes Paris look fantastic, both in the past and the present.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Paul Bates.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: Zelda and Adriana, both '20s women, smoke lovely-looking cigarettes.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To Last Night in Soho, as both protagonists believe they are Born in the Wrong Century according to the city they are visiting. Both find a way to magically transport back to the golden age of each city, but while Midnight in Paris is a romantic comedy that explores nostalgia in general by unlocking further time travelling to a more distant past, Last Night in Soho harshly deconstructs the Nostalgia Filter we tend to have for older eras.
  • Spotting the Thread: Even though they never meet them, Hemingway and Stein are the ones who clues into the fact that Inez is sleeping with Paul after reading the draft of Gil's novel.
  • Stable Time Loop: It's suggested (but never explored in depth) that Gil saves Zelda's life and thus prevents a paradox.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Could Ernest Hemingway have been portrayed in any other way?
  • Third-Option Love Interest: Gil doesn't end up with either Inez or Adriana, rather Gabrielle, a young Frenchwoman.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailer deliberately hides the Time Travel aspects of the story, making it seem like Gil has found something contemporary. The trailer also implies the 'disappearance' of the detective following Gil is a major plot point instead of the minor Brick Joke it is in the film.
  • Uncertain Doom: It's never revealed if the detective ever made it back to the present era, or if he was able to escape the king's guards and avoid being decapitated.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Some of the people Gil meets aren't as well known as others. Knowledge of Luis Buñuel's filmography is required to get one joke in particular. Josephine Baker is not even identified by name and audiences not familiar with her are left only with Gil's reaction to know she's supposed to be anyone important.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Paul's wife Carol gets sick after eating an oyster and this is the last time her existence is even acknowledged. It's not even revealed if she ever found out that her husband cheated on her with Inez.
  • Writers Suck: Gil believes this about himself, at least with his screenwriting.
  • Write Who You Know: invoked Gil has done this with his novel. This comes into play when Hemingway reads his work and questions why the character Gil based on himself doesn't realize the characters he based on Inez and Paul are having an affair, cluing him in to what's happening in his own reality.