Once a year I hope for, but don’t expect, a movie to lift me away and envelop me. You may think it’s sad that I only expect one movie a year to do this to me, but I’m not talking about simple enjoyment, because I enjoy many movies. I’m talking about that feeling, a change that you perceive in the world when you’ve stepped out of the theatre. The movie continues on as you drive down the street or walk up the sidewalk. There’s something intangible or heightened. That’s how I felt after walking out of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.
Owen Wilson has brought a simple charm to Allen’s thoughts, a sincere naivety, a childlike whimsy. One that enlivens the persona Allen himself has played in so many of his films. But he also turns what normally is a fear of the common, that Allen deftly plays, into a passion for the uncommon. It’s truly magical.
I’m not going to give away much of the plot, you either know it or I will leave it a surprise (which by and large it was to me). The setup is this, WIlson’s character is in Paris with his fiance, a very natural Rachel McAdams. He’s a Hollywood screenwriter who is infatuated with the idea of living in Paris in the ’20s – living in Paris at all. McAdams is firmly against the idea or any thought of it. And something occurs that puts Wilson at odds with what he has and what he desires – cognitive dissonance, he calls it, and so it is. (Look it up, every screenwriter or writer should know the meaning of this term.You can hear Allen coming to a conclusion that Wilson’s character does, which is perhaps one of the reasons why the film works so much. Allen holds to the same illusions Wilson’s character does, and so we’re taking the same journey Allen is taking through Wilson.
What happens and how is part of the journey that you will have to experience while watching the film. Suffice it to say that it’s whimsical, passionate and romantic in a way I’ve seen few films capable of being in a very long time – Chaplin comes to mind. And incredibly funny – wit at it’s sharpest – almost, in fact, Shakespearean.
When I left the theatre, I saw the look on my fellow audience goers faces. They were alive, reflecting how I felt inside. And as I saw other people come out of their films, I saw a distinct difference, like something was missing from their experience – they looked vacant – deer in the cinematic headlights. They missed that which was so simply attained with my experience, and those that sat around me. The simple idea that a movie could make you care and love people, history, a city, art and allow you to appreciate not only the art before you, but the world around you as you left the art behind, as opposed to walking away feeling vacant, which is the look I saw in their eyes. There was a philosopher that said, art is the only thing that can pull you away from your trajectory in life and see the world with new eyes, and change that trajectory. Midnight in Paris has the capability to do that.