(The original title, jokingly because I couldn’t think of a good title, was “Steven Steal-berg”.)
In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Owen Wilson plays Gil, a vacationing screenwriter working on a novel about a man who owns a nostalgia shop. That a screenwriter would have this notion seems about par for the course, as Hollywood has almost completely turned itself into just that: a nostalgia shop. Comic books, toys, cartoons, amusement park rides, old movies and now even board games – it’s all fair game for a cinematic rendering in a way that didn’t exist, or at least not with any real quality, a decade ago.
Gil, of course, magically goes back in time and visits his favorite writers in 1920s Paris, falling in love. For most of today’s directors, it’s not nearly as far a journey. Many just can’t get past how rad the ’80s were, or get over how wizard the ’70s were, when Steven Spielberg made their favorite movies. But in these re-tellings, the memories they are reshaping are too often secondhand themselves, memories that directors like Spielberg, George Lucas, the Bobs (Zemeckis and Gale) or Martin Scorsese originally got from the B-movies, serials and television of their own childhoods. Like the ever-worsening quality of a cassette tape, the further down the generational line you get from the original, the more fuzzy and shapeless things get.
-I don’t quite understand why it was even attempted to keep Sigourney Weaver a secret in this film. She has one of the most distinctive film voices, and there wasn’t even really an attempt to mask it. At least it was a surprise when Madonna turned out to be The Blank in Dick Tracy, but it was rather silly to play it as a big finale reveal here. It’s obvious.
-I really appreciate the hell out of the nostalgia, though it does make me feel quite old. Most of the stuff that they’re nostalgic about is stuff that was 10 years old by the time it came out on video and I was old enough to process it, so I think it’s making me feel artificially old, not genuinely old, even though I’m about to turn 31 (that doesn’t even seem possible).
-Kristin Wiig, who I’m starting to like more and more as she gets away from SNL, was largely wasted on throwaway jokes. She handled them like a champ, but except for being adorable there was nothing really memorable about her in the movie. I suppose that is somewhat true of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, too, to be honest. Paul himself, and Zoyle, really steal the show.
-I was skeptical about Bateman as Zoyle at first, he won me over by the end, and I was thankful that it wasn’t Paul Rudd playing the character.
-Even though I did enjoy the hell out of the nostalgic elements, there were probably too many of them. I did half expect there to be a shark and a man in a fedora being chased by a band of Nazis somewhere in there. I hope Abrams handles the direct references better in Super 8.
-I enjoyed it quite a lot overall, though there are more than a few spots where I ended up groaning or rolling my eyes. It probably didn’t even need to be as long as it was, but there is going to be an extended edition DVD out soon. I guess that’s just to be expected with comedies these days, but I can’t remember anything in any of the extended edition DVDs that I’ve seen that I thought should have stayed in the theatrical cut. The most recent one I can remember watching was Get Him to the Greek, which is much better in the theatrical cut of the movie. I liked Paul but not enough to give it extra time.