Midnight in Paris
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Produced by Spanish group Mediapro and Allen's Gravier Productions, the film stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni, Adrien Brody and Michael Sheen. It premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was released in North America in May 2011. The film opened to widespread critical acclaim and has commonly been cited as Woody Allen's best film since 1994's Bullets Over Broadway. It has become a global box office success.
Gil Pender, a successful but creatively unfulfilled Hollywood screenwriter, and his fiancée, Inez, are in Paris, vacationing with Inez's wealthy, conservative parents. Gil is struggling to finish his first novel, centered around a man who works in a nostalgia shop, but Inez dismisses his ambition as a romantic daydream and encourages him to stick with the more lucrative screenwriting. While Gil is considering moving to Paris (which he notes, much to the dismay of his fiancée, is at its most beautiful in the rain), Inez is intent on living in Malibu. By chance, they are joined by Inez's friend Paul, a pedantic pseudo-intellectual who speaks with great authority but questionable accuracy on the history and art of the city. Inez admires him, but Gil finds him insufferable.
One night, Gil gets drunk and becomes lost in the back streets of Paris. At midnight, a 1920s Peugeot Type 176 car draws up beside him, and the passengers—dressed in 1920s clothing—urge him to join them. They go to a party for Jean Cocteau where Gil comes to realize that he has been transported back to the 1920s, an era he idolizes. He encounters Alice B. Toklas, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who take him to meet Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway agrees to show Gil's novel to Gertrude Stein, and Gil goes to fetch his manuscript from his hotel. However, as soon as he leaves, he finds he has returned to 2010 and the bar has disappeared.
Gil attempts to bring Inez to the past with him the following night, but while they wait, she becomes impatient, and peevishly returns to the hotel. Just after she leaves, the clock strikes midnight and the same car arrives, this time with Hemingway inside it. He takes Gil to meet Stein, who agrees to read his novel and introduces him to Pablo Picasso and his mistress Adriana, to whom Gil is instantly attracted. Stein reads aloud the novel's first line:
- 'Out Of The Past' was the name of the store, and its products consisted of memories: what was prosaic and even vulgar to one generation had been transmuted by the mere passing of years to a status at once magical and also camp.
Gil spends each of the next few nights in the past. His late-night wanderings annoy Inez, and arouse the suspicion of her father, who hires a detective to follow Gil. Meanwhile, Gil spends more and more time with Adriana, who leaves Picasso for a brief dalliance with Hemingway. Gil realizes he is falling in love with her, leaving him in conflict. He confides his predicament to Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, and Luis Buñuel, but being surrealists they see nothing strange about his claim to have come from the future, finding it to be perfectly normal. They discuss the impossibility of Gil's relationship with Adriana, and each of the artists envisages a different masterpiece inspired by such an unusual romance.
While Inez shops for furniture, Gil meets Gabrielle, an antiques dealer and fellow admirer of the Lost Generation. Gil later discovers Adriana's diary from the 1920s on a book stall by the Seine and discovers that she was in love with him. Reading that she dreamed of receiving a gift of earrings from him and then making love to him, Gil attempts to steal a pair of earrings from Inez to give to Adriana, but is thwarted by Inez's early return from a trip.
Gil purchases earrings for Adriana and, returning to the past, declares his love for her. As they kiss, they are invited inside a horse-drawn carriage by a richly-dressed couple and are transported back to the 1890s Belle Époque, an era Adriana considers Paris's Golden Age. They are taken to Maxim's Paris, and eventually to the Moulin Rouge where they meet Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, and Edgar Degas. When Gil asks what they thought the best era was, the three determine that the greatest era was the Renaissance. The enthralled Adriana is offered a job designing ballet costumes, and proposes to Gil that they stay. Gil, however, realizes that despite the allure of nostalgia, it is better to accept the present for what it is. Adriana elects to stay in the 1890s, and they part.
Gil retrieves his novel from Stein, who praises his progress as a writer but questions why the main character has not realized that his fiancée (based on Inez) is having an affair with a pedantic character (based on Paul). Gil returns to 2010 and confronts Inez. She admits to sleeping with Paul, but dismisses it as a meaningless fling. Inez's parents agree with Gil when he tells her that they are not right for each other, prompting Inez's father to confess that he had Gil followed, though the detective mysteriously disappeared. (We discover that he was transported to the 17th century.) Gil breaks up with Inez and decides to remain in Paris. Taking a walk at midnight, he meets Gabrielle and, after it starts to rain, he offers to walk her home and learns that she shares his love of Paris in the rain.
The cast includes (in credits order):
- Owen Wilson as Gil Pender
- Rachel McAdams as Inez
- Kurt Fuller as John, Inez's father
- Mimi Kennedy as Helen, Inez's mother
- Michael Sheen as Paul Bates
- Nina Arianda as Carol Bates
- Carla Bruni as Museum Guide
- Yves Heck as Cole Porter
- Alison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald
- Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway
- Sonia Rolland as Josephine Baker
- Daniel Lundh as Juan Belmonte
- Thérèse Bourou-Rubinsztein as Alice B. Toklas
- Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein
- Marcial Di Fonzo Bo as Pablo Picasso
- Marion Cotillard as Adriana
- Léa Seydoux as Gabrielle
- Emmanuelle Uzan as Djuna Barnes
- Adrien Brody as Salvador Dalí
- Tom Cordier as Man Ray
- Adrien de Van as Luis Buñuel
- Serge Bagdassarian as Detective Duluc
- Gad Elmaleh as Detective Tisserant
- David Lowe as T. S. Eliot
- Yves-Antoine Spoto as Henri Matisse
- Laurent Claret as Leo Stein
- Vincent Menjou Cortes as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- Olivier Rabourdin as Paul Gauguin
- François Rostain as Edgar Degas
- Karine Vanasse as Belle Époque woman
- Michel Vuillermoz as King in Versailles