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Midnight in Paris: A Timeless Romance About Moving Forward in Life

Woody Allen is one of the greatest, if not the  greatest, film directors of all time.  His impressive filmography includes the Best Picture winner Annie Hall (1977), the Oscar-winning film Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and the classic black-and-white film Manhattan (1979). Woody Allen is well-known for original films set in New York City; but, in spite of that city providing the setting for some of his films, Allen has famously remarked that he loves the city of Paris. 

It is no surprise then that Woody Allen would write and direct one of the greatest romantic comedies set in the city of lights. Midnight in Paris (2011) is one of the most original films of the twenty-first century because of its profound examinations of time, history, and how change is the only constant.

*Spoiler Alert*

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams star as Gil and Inez, a recently engaged couple who do their best to enjoy a trip to Paris with her parents tagging along. Gil is hopelessly romantic while Inez is somewhat grounded to reality because of her lack of romantic sensibilities. At the beginning of the film, Gil and Inez share a conversation while the black-and-white opening credits roll. Inez wonders why anyone would enjoy Paris in the rain because she does not see how getting wet can be romantic. 

The initial tension between the couple reveals that they are not exactly compatible with each other. Woody Allen immediately establishes that the love between two people needs to be genuine as well as the idea that marriage (or planning to get married) does not necessarily mean that the lovers will live happily ever after once they declare their wedding vows. As the film progresses, Gil has experiences that force him to question his love for Inez and the city of Paris and his perception of what constitutes happiness.

One night, Gil boards a car at midnight that magically transports him to the 1920s in Paris where he encounters some of the greatest creative figures of all time, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. In spite of being engaged to Inez, Gil also meets the alluring Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard. 

Traveling back in time gives Midnight in Paris  a sense of magical realism because of the juxtaposition between the fantastical historical Paris and the mundane modern Paris set in the twenty-first century. 

Such a contrast offers the notion that the present moment might be bleak and yearning for the past is a justifiable action because some people, like Gil, are nostalgic.

In Midnight in Paris, Gil has several romantic interests that each possess their own unique personalities that shape him as he dynamically changes throughout the film. Inez represents the dullness of modernity because of her tough, no-nonsense attitude toward life. It might be possible to say that she is a bit cynical, especially since she does not necessarily enjoy the splendor and romance of Paris. 

Adriana represents nostalgia for a time when Paris was stunning during the era of La Belle Époque. She is able to satisfy Gil’s romantic attitude toward life whenever he travels back to her time period, which is the early 1900s. 

Finally, the woman who Gil encounters at the end of the film, Gabriella, which symbolically takes place in the rain, appears to be a more ideal choice for a romantic partner. Gabriella even says “I do not mind getting wet,” which means that she is perfectly comfortable with the dreariness of reality. While rain is emblematic of the dismal times that plague our lives, it also represents the cleansing of the soul, a sense of purification that suggests there is hope for a better future as soon as the rain dissipates.

One of the best scenes from Midnight in Paris  is Gil’s conversation with Adriana when she yearns for the historical Paris that goes even further back in time compared to her own historical era. Gil expresses a similar longing because of his dissatisfaction of twenty-first century life. Their conversation makes them realize that there are people who want to travel back to the past to a time that is perceived better than their own; however, this nostalgia and longing for the past can never be regained, nor is it necessarily “better” than the present. 

This brilliant moment within Allen’s Oscar-winning screenplay reminds audiences to treasure the present moment because the greatest period of time really is THE present.

Time is a compelling theme explored within this modern love story. The word “midnight” is symbolic because that is when a new day begins, so it is no wonder Woody Allen would use this pivotal moment in a 24-hour day to allow Gil to travel back in time to the Roaring ‘20s, a time period that fascinates this hopelessly romantic protagonist.

The car that transports Gil back in time symbolizes life’s journey; his travels are a metaphor for all of the difficult twists and turns that we must endure through our journey as well as the personal growth that we experience as a result.  Life in the present moment might be difficult for Gil, especially since his fiancé, Inez, can be spiteful at times, but the time-traveling motif represents how Gil has to cope and accept the fact that change is the only constant in life.

Woody Allen has written some of the greatest screenplays in cinematic history, and his vibrant imagination has arguably created his most compelling film of all time. Woody Allen definitely deserved the “Best Original Screenplay” Academy Award for creating such a profound modern-day romantic comedy.  

Gil might have been fortunate enough to travel through time and encounter some of the greatest creative figures the world has ever known, but the truth is that time keeps on ticking forward. Woody Allen has his main protagonist experience time travel so that Gil ultimately learns that he can never regain the past. Being nostalgic allows Gil to admire the past, but he also realizes the fundamental truth that he must move on in life rather than yearn for a former life that is impossible to acquire.

His newfound friendship with Gabriella at the film’s conclusion symbolizes Gil’s abandonment of a potentially unhappy life with Inez, and how he is willing to change in order to move toward a better future regardless of what happened prior to that chance encounter. Gil might have had to put the past behind him, but he dynamically changes into a man who accepts the present moment as his current reality. Woody Allen has been known for writing thought-provoking screenplays, and Midnight in Paris  will always remain a classic because it is a timeless film about the precious nature of time itself.

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Alex Andy Phuong graduated from California State University-Los Angeles with his Bachelor of Arts in English in 2015. He currently writes film reviews and creative pieces. His sincerest hope is that his writing will inspire anyone who reads his work.

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Midnight in Paris: A Timeless Romance About Moving Forward in Life

Woody Allen is one of the greatest, if not the  greatest, film directors of all time.  His impressive filmography includes the Best Picture winner Annie Hall (1977), the Oscar-winning film Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and the classic black-and-white film Manhattan (1979). Woody Allen is well-known for original films set in New York City; but, in spite of that city providing the setting for some of his films, Allen has famously remarked that he loves the city of Paris. 

It is no surprise then that Woody Allen would write and direct one of the greatest romantic comedies set in the city of lights. Midnight in Paris (2011) is one of the most original films of the twenty-first century because of its profound examinations of time, history, and how change is the only constant.

*Spoiler Alert*

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams star as Gil and Inez, a recently engaged couple who do their best to enjoy a trip to Paris with her parents tagging along. Gil is hopelessly romantic while Inez is somewhat grounded to reality because of her lack of romantic sensibilities. At the beginning of the film, Gil and Inez share a conversation while the black-and-white opening credits roll. Inez wonders why anyone would enjoy Paris in the rain because she does not see how getting wet can be romantic. 

The initial tension between the couple reveals that they are not exactly compatible with each other. Woody Allen immediately establishes that the love between two people needs to be genuine as well as the idea that marriage (or planning to get married) does not necessarily mean that the lovers will live happily ever after once they declare their wedding vows. As the film progresses, Gil has experiences that force him to question his love for Inez and the city of Paris and his perception of what constitutes happiness.

One night, Gil boards a car at midnight that magically transports him to the 1920s in Paris where he encounters some of the greatest creative figures of all time, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. In spite of being engaged to Inez, Gil also meets the alluring Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard. 

Traveling back in time gives Midnight in Paris  a sense of magical realism because of the juxtaposition between the fantastical historical Paris and the mundane modern Paris set in the twenty-first century. 

Such a contrast offers the notion that the present moment might be bleak and yearning for the past is a justifiable action because some people, like Gil, are nostalgic.

In Midnight in Paris, Gil has several romantic interests that each possess their own unique personalities that shape him as he dynamically changes throughout the film. Inez represents the dullness of modernity because of her tough, no-nonsense attitude toward life. It might be possible to say that she is a bit cynical, especially since she does not necessarily enjoy the splendor and romance of Paris. 

Adriana represents nostalgia for a time when Paris was stunning during the era of La Belle Époque. She is able to satisfy Gil’s romantic attitude toward life whenever he travels back to her time period, which is the early 1900s. 

Finally, the woman who Gil encounters at the end of the film, Gabriella, which symbolically takes place in the rain, appears to be a more ideal choice for a romantic partner. Gabriella even says “I do not mind getting wet,” which means that she is perfectly comfortable with the dreariness of reality. While rain is emblematic of the dismal times that plague our lives, it also represents the cleansing of the soul, a sense of purification that suggests there is hope for a better future as soon as the rain dissipates.

One of the best scenes from Midnight in Paris  is Gil’s conversation with Adriana when she yearns for the historical Paris that goes even further back in time compared to her own historical era. Gil expresses a similar longing because of his dissatisfaction of twenty-first century life. Their conversation makes them realize that there are people who want to travel back to the past to a time that is perceived better than their own; however, this nostalgia and longing for the past can never be regained, nor is it necessarily “better” than the present. 

This brilliant moment within Allen’s Oscar-winning screenplay reminds audiences to treasure the present moment because the greatest period of time really is THE present.

Time is a compelling theme explored within this modern love story. The word “midnight” is symbolic because that is when a new day begins, so it is no wonder Woody Allen would use this pivotal moment in a 24-hour day to allow Gil to travel back in time to the Roaring ‘20s, a time period that fascinates this hopelessly romantic protagonist.

The car that transports Gil back in time symbolizes life’s journey; his travels are a metaphor for all of the difficult twists and turns that we must endure through our journey as well as the personal growth that we experience as a result.  Life in the present moment might be difficult for Gil, especially since his fiancé, Inez, can be spiteful at times, but the time-traveling motif represents how Gil has to cope and accept the fact that change is the only constant in life.

Woody Allen has written some of the greatest screenplays in cinematic history, and his vibrant imagination has arguably created his most compelling film of all time. Woody Allen definitely deserved the “Best Original Screenplay” Academy Award for creating such a profound modern-day romantic comedy.  

Gil might have been fortunate enough to travel through time and encounter some of the greatest creative figures the world has ever known, but the truth is that time keeps on ticking forward. Woody Allen has his main protagonist experience time travel so that Gil ultimately learns that he can never regain the past. Being nostalgic allows Gil to admire the past, but he also realizes the fundamental truth that he must move on in life rather than yearn for a former life that is impossible to acquire.

His newfound friendship with Gabriella at the film’s conclusion symbolizes Gil’s abandonment of a potentially unhappy life with Inez, and how he is willing to change in order to move toward a better future regardless of what happened prior to that chance encounter. Gil might have had to put the past behind him, but he dynamically changes into a man who accepts the present moment as his current reality. Woody Allen has been known for writing thought-provoking screenplays, and Midnight in Paris  will always remain a classic because it is a timeless film about the precious nature of time itself.

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