After the first few minutes, an instrumental montage of various Parisian landmarks and scenery, I was convinced I would absolutely love this film. If I only knew what was to come.
Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams play Gil and Inez, ill-matched fiancés. One is decent, romantic, and optimistic, while the other is shallow, unkind, and petty. Gil, while wandering the streets of Paris at midnight, stumbles upon another (and his ideal) era: Paris in the 1920’s. He brushes elbows with some of the greatest literary and artistic geniuses of all time, realizes what he really wants in life, and discovers the potential problems with romanticizing the past. Wilson is as charming as ever, while McAdams plays an overly exaggerated version of a spoiled brat. Even with time travel as a theme in the film, the most unbelievable part is the engagement of the two main characters. Regardless, what is truly great about this film is how Allen captures the city’s spirit and the amazing powerhouse of talent that has walked its streets.
I spent 5 weeks in Paris during the summer of 2005. It is an understatement to say I fell in love. Some say Paris is overly romanticized, that the city’s iconic landmarks have become cliché. I can only respond that I suspect these people have never spent time there. The city has drawn in the best artists and writers from around the world, many of whom appear in the film: Hemingway, Fitzgerald (Scott and Zelda), Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Dalí, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, and so many more. These roles and small cameos of such significant and inspirational figures will delight even the most casual art history buff.
Along with the recognizable names and faces from history are the recognizable and gorgeous Parisian buildings, streets, and natural scenery. So many amazing landmarks are seen throughout the film: Tour Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Monet’s gardens at Giverny, the Palace of Versailles, and even the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Every street the characters walked reminded me of how I felt in the city of light and it made my heart ache. Only a city like Paris could make a person long so badly it causes chest pain. I know this. Woody Allen obviously knows this too. His creation perfectly embodies the magic and inspiration Paris has and still offers across cultures and generations alike.