Everyone kept telling me I should go and see Midnight In Paris. A Woody Allen film set in Paris with appearances from literary and artistic giants Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds and Picasso, you would think it would be right up the street of a Paris-obsessed English Literature graduate. The truth is, I thought it was pretty bad. The script was poorly written and stumbled along as I cringed at heavy-handed stereotypes, caricatures and cliché after cliché. The concept was sweet and fun – not particularly original or anything, but it had potential. But, being relatively new to Woody Allen, I expected such a famous film maker to be able to at least… I don’t know, make a good film.
For one thing, he presented a very black and white view of Americans versus the French. In this world view, Americans (except for Gil, the protagonist, who one assumes is heavily modelled on Mr Allen) are obnoxious and don’t appreciate beauty and culture even when it hits them in the face. The French, on the other hand, are sexually liberated, sensitive and artistic people. From the start of the film, it was very clear that Gil’s fiancée and her parents hate Paris and don’t want to be there, complaining about the barbarism of French politics and turning their noses up in disdain at the thought of strolling around the city to see the sights. There was nothing sympathetic at all about Inez, Gil’s fiancée – she was a one dimensional character through and through, doing nothing but complain and belittle her fiancé the whole time. It was completely unbelievable that they would have ever got engaged in the first place. As Gil says at one point, the only thing they seem to have in common is that they both like pita bread.
But the caricatures don’t stop there. When you meet Hemingway, he quotes his own books, downs a bottle of champagne and then shouts ‘Who wants a fight?’ at no one in particular. We get it, Hemingway was a macho alcoholic. The most appealing characters were Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, and I found myself wishing they had been given more screen time. Or that it had been a film about them, instead of the dull, gormless Gil Pender who eyes up every woman who came in his vicinity but has the shocked look of an innocent puppy on his face when his engagement falls apart. Really, you didn’t see that coming? Really?
But what’s strange about this film is that all the critics seem to love it. Did no one at Cannes notice the awkward and clumsy script? It has been hailed as a return to form for Woody Allen; I’m far from an aficionado on the subject (I saw Vicky Cristina Barcelona and thought that was terrible too), but if this is a return to form, I dread to think what he is like on a bad day.