What if there were a movie about a young writer who with the draft of his first novel in hand, went back in time to 1920’s Paris and had his manuscript reviewed by the likes of Ernest Hemmingway and Gertrude Stein…
I stumbled on a really enjoyable movie last night…scrolling through the “New Releases” on Shaw VOD I paused to read the synopsis for Midnight in Paris. Something about a family’s trip to Paris. Meh. More brash Americans, undoubtedly being offensive before redeeming themselves. Sigh. However, the cast looked good: Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody…and it had 3.5 stars. Ok.
Well, the synopsis didn’t do it justice. The “family” is an American businessman, his wife and their daughter and her fiancé. The fiancé, Gil Bender from Pasadena, played by Owen Wilson, is quickly enchanted by Paris (in more ways than one). While his fiancé and her mother are focused on expensive shopping excursions, Gil is browsing the antique and memorabilia shop across the street. He loves to imagine life in the 1920’s “Golden Age” of Paris, where great artists loved, argued, and sought inspiration in its streets, bars, and special ambiance. He could live here, he tells his fiancé, and write the novel he’s always wanted to. She believes Gil is succumbing to some kind of weak- minded escapism—and no way she would ever live anywhere but America.
On a late night walk alone, Gil gets lost and stops to rest on some steps by the river. As a bell tolls midnight, a 1920’s vintage limo drives up; stops, and the couple inside insist he join them. As they drive off, the elegantly dressed couple introduce themselves…Scott Fitzgerald and his Zelda. The party they arrive at is alive with Cole Porter music, women in flapper style evening dress. They bounce from there to a local bar, when Scott introduces Gil to the bar’s lone inhabitant, Ernest. Ernest Hemmingway. Gil tentatively, then excitedly begins to discuss his novel. “I won’t read it,” Hemmingway states, “if I don’t like it, I’ll tell you I hate it—If I like it, I’ll be jealous and tell you I hate it.” But he promises that if Gil brings it to him, he’ll take it to his friend Gertrude Stein for a review. “She reads my stuff,” he says.
Of course when Gil returns to his hotel, he has also returned to present day.
And so each night, he finds his way back to his new friends and the 1920’s. The story is peopled with interesting characters from our culture’s past: writers, artists and musicians.
The beauty of it is how Gil comes to realize that the people of every era believe that bygone times were the “Golden Age” and better than the present they live in; and we see Gil also come to appreciate, at last realizing, what life has to offer him in the here and now.
Writers, especially those in the early throes of the struggle will get a kick out of this movie. Two thumbs up ☺