I know I’ve discussed gender perspective in genre movies so I feel as if I’m treading too familiar of a ground but it still fascinates me that we’re watching a male protagonist in contemporary romantic movies now, like here in Nick Cassavetes‘ adaptation of The Notebook, the catalyst to Nicholas Sparks‘ factory of insufferable ubiquity. But this movie that started it all is still exemplary in the way it visualizes emotion.
Anyway, we’re seeing James Garner‘s character narrating. At least that shows that men have some semblance of feelings, as well as giving for both the female target audience and their poor boyfriends a reason to stay for the movie. Or no, it’s more complex than that, he tells it in Rachel McAdams‘ character’s point of view who, after all, is a fitting centre because she – as part of the genre’s formula, I know and I don’t care – has to choose between two men, a poor young man of her dreams (Ryan Gosling) and his richer yet equally handsome and benevolent rival (James Marsden). He has a purpose and pathos in retelling this story. Attraction or emotional attachment, as the genre suggests, are the most important aspects to ponder in her choice and with the movie’s setting – the 1960’s – and class dynamics it’s still a wonder whether she would act on those factors or repress them and stay with the suitable man her mother (Joan Allen) want to marry. Whether this would end in a fade-out happiness or tragedy.
The Notebook is the closest we’ll get to a Sirkian drama although it doesn’t go to those heightened emotions. I’m talking about the well-crafted visuals here, the clear images, sticking out against movies made that year that are either too plastic, dark or wintry. It’s a great lens to portray Garner and a woman he’s taken a liking to at an old folks home (Gena Rowlands) – he tells his younger relatives that he will never let her go after taking pains to find her. But the cinematography is more naturalistic yet glowingly lucid in depicting their younger equivalents, experiencing rural beauty – someone has probably already written some thesis about how different it is to fall in love within the country as it is in the city. The couple find themselves alone while he rows a boat further into a river where tall trees and the whitest ducks in the world would be, but there’s this Arcadian purity in their seclusion and the camera is in the right kind of distance to experience both the lovebirds’ perspective as well as enjoy their environment. Great romantic movies like this fool us into thinking these two can’t be in any bad scenario – some of us think of courtship scenes more cynically because doesn’t work with us real people – except for the ones where they have to be pulled apart. And the movie’s length didn’t bother me as long as they spent more time or possible grow together.
This is a movie of boat rides and car rides, a woman going to her loved one or her mother showing her the risks of marrying down. A movie about discovery that those little journeys produce. Although one thing strange about the mother’s revelation, that maybe the reason that her own fling ends up the way he did is because she didn’t save him. I’m not saying that women are obliged to save lower class boys and convert them into the kind of men that their parents will approve of but there is this therapeutic element to relationships, or at least the movie shows characters’ romantic bonds as to having that effect. But even though her mother and her fiancée prefer that she doesn’t run off and elope, they’re not necessarily the movie’s villains, since they’re merely looking out for her best interests.
Also, isn’t it a bit Crazy that Allen and Rowlands are in a movie together and if McAdams proves herself to be better than her present role choices – this movie, like Sparks’ oeuvre, also starting her stint as the actress in every other weepy – she could join them as part of a great actress ensemble? She can hold the screen in what could be considered a period piece without being overwhelmed and relying on the costumes and hair. It’s the latest example of a movie knowing how to sympathize with and aestheticize a woman and the people and objects around her in a way that most directors have now forgotten to do.
You know where I stand on Channing Tatum – in front of him. But seriously, I probably won’t watch this for a few reasons,
a) My incessant complaining about still trying to finish 2011. I have seven movies left, minus one plus one.
b) Glenn Sumi told me not to, and it’s Metacritic score is probably too low anyway.
c) I’m poor and I would rather spend my money feeling up working strippers instead of watching retired ones on the big screen. It’s my way of ‘supporting the arts.’
d) ‘I don’t want to marry Channing Tatum because I like an intellectual challenge.’ – No one.
Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), visiting Paris for unknown length of time, is so taken by the city that he considers moving in, be a perpetual tourist and write his novel. His fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) thinks that he should go back to Southern California and stay on as the moderately successful screenwriter that he is. His romanticized view of Paris gets intermittently interrupted by his fiancée’s parents, her older friend Paul (Michael Sheen) and the latter’s yes-woman of a fiancée. After a wine tasting party, Gil takes a rain check when Inez and Paul want to go out dancing. He wants to ingest the city and gets lost. While sitting on some steps, the bells ring midnight, a vintage car stops in front of him and inside are people dressed up for a 1920’s themes costume party. They wave him in, he follows, and they take a ride from one charming, drunken party to another in for real 1920’s Paris.
In his review of Woody Allen‘s new film Midnight in Paris for The New York Times, A.O. Scott says ‘critics…complain when he repeats himself and also when he experiments.’ The same can be said in his version of 1920’s France, the historical characters from that bygone era depicted like Coles Notes. Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates, because who else?) saying something quotable and eloquent! Ernest Hemingway saying something equally quotable eloquent on an awesome musky drunken haze! Zelda Fitzgerald (Alison Pill) and Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody) saying something coarse and/or surreal that no one rightfully bothered to write down! It’s a damned if he does or doesn’t scenario. The latter might have made history buffs and literati take their own nails out. But choosing the former makes history seem like pushing a button to reassure Gil, as he tells Inez, that the people in the past are exactly what he thought they would be, and that he might not learn anything new despite going into this different world.
Thankfully, history gets a different narrative through Ariana (Marion Cotilliard), a fashion designer originally from a smaller French city. Conventionally, no one in her time would write about her, the thankless muse and objectified trophy to many artists. She’s smitten by Gil’s writing and befriends him. Instead of the gilded tourist-y, antique shop present day France that Gil experiences in daylight, shot marvellously by Darius Khondji, his midnight strolls in 1920’s Paris with Ariana are gray, mahogany and smoke. She leads him to avenues with a whopping four prostitutes in one block. Four! She tells him about her relatively hard life and her encounters with sleazy people of that time.
Through Cotilliard’s commendable performance, Ariana talks about being these artists’ and writers’ lovers or working under revered couturiers as a measly job or a mere stop to a drifter’s journey instead of an honour that Gil thinks it is. Kindred spirits with differences attract, and it’s very convincing that instead of hanging out and being a sponge to ideas from these great writers, he is more fascinated with ‘some girl.’ Ariana is just one of the film’s female characters who are counter-subversive to Gil’s subversion, being able to see the cracks within his nostalgia. Gertrude Stein criticizes a painting that would end up in a gallery that Gil revisits in the present day. Inez’ mother questions his lack of taste in furniture.
Woody Allen’s previous takes on the past are more magical, an element greatly missed in this film. Sure, there’s that bit of dust touching the vintage car as they’re going to Cole Porter’s party, but instead of fully embracing the world where Gil finds himself, we instead see his eyes get bigger, the characters introducing themselves with names of people who have been dead for years. But at least he replaces magic with self-awareness.
- Movie Review – Midnight in Paris (** out of 5) (chicagonow.com)
I spent the year there. As an aside, seriously, are they playing Uno? That’s what you play with your be-hated second cousins.
Then I spent two years here. We also had a guy to the left who looks like he’s in his third victory lap.
And, by ETA: gay honour code default, I sat here.
Ah, “Mean Girls.” Tina Fey taught her audience so many things through the movie. The movie gave us so many catchphrases. It resolves a conflict through a joke written so beautifully I didn’t realize that it’s an old one. Stephanie Zacharek wrote what feels like a universally accepted critique when she says that this is a teen flick for grown-ups.
It also gave us the neuroses in really great characters in Gretchen Weiners (Lacey Chabert) and Regina George (Rachel McAdams). That scream scene where Regina discovers Cady Heron’s (Lindsay Lohan) betrayal. One has the chance to heal in the movie – she does get hit by a bus. Another’s just broken. I appreciate the work done in these characters knowing that in other, sub-par teen movies, these girls would be disposed of. Like plastics. Ha!
I don’t wanna sound like Orson Welles did the camera work in this movie, but that shot-counter shot with Cady and Miss Norbury (Fey) is just guilt inducing. Fey’s performance also had a huge hand in conveying this guilt too. Also, the crane work in the cafeteria scenes were amazingly subtle.
Also, Ebert reminds us that Mark Waters is also the only person that made Tori Spelling act – scroll down to find out how and where. The latter is wasting his time recently, and I wanna see him at it again.
ETA: This has just been submitted to Nathaniel R’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot Series.