Do Not Read This Unless You’ve Seen Midnight in Paris.
Why? Because this isn’t a review of Midnight in Paris. It’s a recap of why I liked it so much, by categorically listing all the things that would have spoiled it for me.
10. Will Ferrell or Vince Vaughn. The cameos that were in the film could have been extremely distracting. Especially Adrien Brody. However, they pulled it off. How? Well, Brody wasn’t doing his usual “I’m crying and looking at the camera sometimes” thing. In fact, his scene was so fast-paced and bizarre that it wasn’t until after the film that I remembered “Wow. It didn’t bother me at all during that scene that Brody and Wilson had played brothers in Darjeeling Limited.” They also always kept Gil Pender at the center of each scene, not allowing the cameos and historical figures to steal the attention from him. But really – imagine if when he got into the carriage with T.S. Eliot, the next shot had been a drunken Will Ferrell belting out instructions at the driver.
9. If Rachel McAdams went with him. Just think about how much that would have spoiled the movie. It would have been like Back to the Future Part 2, except where you hate the current love interest. But less creepy than Back to the Future.
8. Dwelling too much on any of the historical figures. Imagine if we had to deal with more than one scene of Zelda worrying that Scott might pine for other women. Or if we had to watch Picasso paint something.
7. A Guide. There was no Fairy Godmother. No Don Cheadle, Laurence Fishburne, or Will Smith popping in and explaining what was going on. Cole Porter didn’t saunter over and say “Welcome to a glimpse of what could have been, Mr. Pender.” This role is often called the “Magic Negro” (yes, I know that’s not an okay word to say; it’s a real film term) and they always do things like explain the mission for the audience, or the glimpse, or they deliver the ultimatum, or whatever. Instead, he basically just went with it and, as a result, the audience jumped right in with him.
6. An Explanation behind the Time Travel “There’s a portal” or “This happens every hundred years” or “You threw that coin into that fountain, remember?” Because that would have sucked. Or, just as bad, would be if it veered into some sort of Groundhog Day, You-Are-Trapped-Until-You-Learn-Your-Lesson type of film. Very, very relieved we never got any forced lesson.
5. The Butterfly Effect. We do get the one moment where he reads the journal and he is in it. But there was no “Because you saved Zelda Fitzgerald, the Cold War never happened” or “Hemingway didn’t kill himself. He actually became a Senator.”
4. A Narrator. Because Woody Allen does that a lot. He gives us a Narrator when we really don’t need one – and sometimes it’s an awkward, poorly-spoken, sort of rushed narrator with a bad voice, like in Vicky Christina Barcelona. And in the few moments when Wilson did narrate something he had just been through, it wasn’t for our benefit – it was because he was reeling from the fact that Gertrude Stein had just read his book.
3. It Was All a Dream. Whether Wizard of Oz or that one season of Dallas or Adam Sandler’s Click (I heard it’s a dream – there, just saved you 90 minutes) or the way some people choose to view Inception, there really isn’t anything much more frustrating than “Get it? It was a dream. That’s why these weird things happened.” Although it might have been the greatest joke ever if the movie did pan down a show a spinning top as Owen Wilson walked into the Paris night with French Woman.
2.If the last shot was just the camera slowly zooming in on a photo on the wall, and the photo is of Owen Wilson hanging out with Hemingway and Fitzgerald and everyone else back in the 1920s because he was trapped there. Seriously, how bad of an ending would that be?
1. Woody Allen I’m just really glad he didn’t do something stupid like cast himself as the much-older protagonist who is inexplicably and neurotically engaged to Rachel McAdams . I think he has gotten over doing that sort of thing, but I’m relieved nonetheless.
Okay. So because of the theme of this web-log, I feel obligated to suggest how Bale could have improved this film with a cameo, or that he should be in the sequel, etc. Unfortunately, this time I don’t feel that way. There should never, ever be a sequel or prequel or anything else related to this film.
The only thing I hope for, after seeing this, is that Allen casts Owen Wilson as his surrogate in one of his future films. Knowing how Allen works, that will probably happen. And while Bale is not the romantic comedy type, maybe he can finally make a comedy, while Allen is still writing and directing.
Either that, or they could make a film where it’s revealed that this was actually a sequel to The Wedding Crashers and the third installment in the trilogy could be about Gil realizing his mistake and moving back to America to break up his ex-fiancee’s wedding… again!
I really, really liked this post. Numbers 7 to 2 are some of my biggest pet peeves in movies like these, and, outside of character death/suicide, i think some of the laziest ways to tell a story/make a movie’s denouement. I’m glad you liked this movie as well though… maybe it can be Allen and Wilson’s “rushmore” of sorts? Maybe Bale can be the outcasted Pater Familias in a next-step of “royal tennenbaum’s” proportions?