I purposely did not read very many reviews of Midnight in Paris before I went, in order to get a sense on my own of whether I liked it or not, and many reviews warned of "spoiler alerts," so when I came acroos those, I stopped reading the review. It was enough to learn of the premise and know it was a Woody Allen movie. (Warning: Spoiler Alert ahead.)
When the movie began, I thought to myself, oh, jeez, here we go, meandering city scapes, people walking aimlessly, rain-then-no-rain, showing time passing, and the inevitable jazz masic intro and even the same font and style for the opening (and closing) credits. Cue: whining, hands-in-pockets/feet too big Woody Allen type, trying to keep up with beautiful, stylish, but somewhat emasculating, rambling blonde. For the married or about-t0-be-married woman lead, he has a thing for shirtdresses and tight jeans and high heels and slightly askew clothing. For the female love interest, her face is childlike, exquisitely sensual, always bathed in soft light with head uptilted in a curious or rapturous smile. It took me 2 takes to realize the face was not only in Gil Pender's past fantasies, but in his present reality. Ah-ha, I noticed, now here is something interesting.
Nevertheless, for about 40 minutes at least, I was waiting, waiting, waiting....to see something different from the usual Allen screenplay, of rambling woman, siding with everyone else but her love interest, walking, walking, walking, with her whiny, insecure, rumpled man trailing along. THEN, as he leans back on the steps in who-knows-where-in-Paris, this old car/taxi comes along with none other than Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, whom Gil knows about intimately, since he is a writer (former English lit major turned hack Hollywood writer), and he is plunged into the world of the 1920's. He goes to this speakeasy, hears and WATCHES Cole Porter playing and singing his own music, and listens to Zelda prattle on in her southern accent. I had forgotten that she was from Alabama, but she mentions that in the film, in case we did forget.
Another night goes by and this time Gil gets into the car with who else but Ernest Hemingway! The moment the film became different from just another Woody Allen film to a brilliant piece was when I heard Hemingway's lines--they were hilariously en pointe! With his shock of black hair and boisterous manliness, he rattled off his comments to Gil Pender in pure Hemingway fashion: in strings of spare prose, connected by "and" this, and "and" that, with his comments a mish-mash of tigers, war, killing, masculinity, grandiosity, and choppy, memorable phrases. Whoever commented that Allen must have had a ball writing his lines is absolutely correct--for anyone familiar at all with Hemingway's style and criticism of it, this scene and any other where he is a part of it is a hoot.
My favorite, however, was Gil's meeting of Salvador Dali, or Dah-LEE! with the hand flourish! After the movie, I was looking up some details of all of his movie characters, and I realized Allen's casting director tried hard to make the actors match the characters in looks as well as style. This movie is the kind that you'll want to buy when it comes out in DVD and watch over and over again to catch some of the minor characters that Allen slips into the nostalgia scenes.