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Midnight in Paris

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Title: Midnight in Paris  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: 84th Academy Awards, 69th Golden Globe Awards, 2011 in film, 2011 Cannes Film Festival, Tom Hiddleston
Collection: 2010S Fantasy Films, 2010S Romantic Comedy Films, 2011 Films, American Films, American Independent Films, American Romantic Comedy Films, English-Language Films, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Fictional Versions of Real People, Films About Screenwriters, Films About Writers, Films Directed by Woody Allen, Films Produced by Letty Aronson, Films Produced by Stephen Tenenbaum, Films Set in 2010, Films Set in Paris, Films Set in the 1890S, Films Set in the 1920S, Films Shot in Paris, Films Whose Writer Won the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award, French-Language Films, Magic Realism Films, Screenplays by Woody Allen, Sony Pictures Classics Films, Spanish Films, Spanish Independent Films, Time Travel Films, Warner Bros. Films
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Woody Allen
Produced by Letty Aronson
Stephen Tenenbaum
Jaume Roures
Written by Woody Allen
Starring Kathy Bates
Adrien Brody
Carla Bruni
Marion Cotillard
Rachel McAdams
Michael Sheen
Owen Wilson
Music by Stephane Wrembel
Cinematography Darius Khondji
Edited by Alisa Lepselter
Gravier Productions
Televisió de Catalunya (TV3)
Versátil Cinema
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Release dates
  • May 11, 2011 (2011-05-11) (Cannes)
  • May 13, 2011 (2011-05-13) (Spain)
  • May 20, 2011 (2011-05-20) (United States)
Running time 94 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $17 million[2]
Box office $151,119,219[2]

Midnight in Paris is an American 2011 romantic comedy fantasy film written and directed by Woody Allen.[3] Set in Paris, the film follows Gil Pender, a screenwriter, who is forced to confront the shortcomings of his relationship with his materialistic fiancée and their divergent goals, which become increasingly exaggerated as he travels back in time each night at midnight.[4] The movie explores themes of nostalgia and modernism.

Produced by Spanish group Mediapro and Allen's Gravier Productions, the film stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, Kathy Bates and Adrien Brody. It premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was released in North America in May 2011.[4][5] The film opened to critical acclaim and has commonly been cited as one of Allen's best films in recent years. In 2012, the film won both the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the Golden Globe Awards for Best Screenplay; and was nominated for three other Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Art Direction.[6] It was shown on Channel 3 on Spanish television with subtitles and won a Goya Award.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
    • Writing 3.1
    • Filming 3.2
  • Marketing 4
  • Release 5
    • Box office 5.1
    • Critical reception 5.2
    • Faulkner estate 5.3
    • Accolades 5.4
    • Home media 5.5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), a successful but creatively unfulfilled Hollywood screenwriter, and his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), are in Paris, vacationing with Inez's wealthy, conservative parents. Gil is struggling to finish his first novel, centered around a man who works in a nostalgia shop, but Inez dismisses his ambition as a romantic daydream and encourages him to stick with the more lucrative screenwriting. While Gil is considering moving to Paris (which he notes, much to the dismay of his fiancée, is at its most beautiful in the rain), Inez is intent on living in Malibu. By chance, they are joined by Inez's friend Paul (Michael Sheen) who is described as both pedantic and a pseudo-intellectual who speaks with great authority but questionable accuracy on the history and art of the city. This is best revealed when he contradicts a tour guide at the Rodin Museum, and insists his knowledge of Rodin's relationships is more accurate than that of the tour guide.[7] Inez admires him, but Gil finds him insufferable.

One night, Gil gets drunk and becomes lost in the back streets of Paris. At midnight, a 1920s Peugeot Type 176 car draws up beside him, and the passengers—dressed in 1920s clothing—urge him to join them. They go to a party for Jean Cocteau where Gil comes to realize that he has been transported back to the 1920s, an era he idolizes. He encounters Cole Porter, Alice B. Toklas, Josephine Baker, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), who take him to meet Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll). Hemingway agrees to show Gil's novel to Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), and Gil goes to fetch his manuscript from his hotel. However, as soon as he leaves, he finds he has returned to 2010 and the bar has disappeared.

Gil attempts to bring Inez to the past with him the following night, but while they wait, she becomes impatient and peevishly returns to the hotel. Just after she leaves, the clock strikes midnight and the same car arrives, this time with Hemingway inside it. He takes Gil to meet Stein, who agrees to read his novel and introduces him to Pablo Picasso and his mistress Adriana (Marion Cotillard), to whom Gil is instantly attracted. Stein reads aloud the novel's first line:[8]

Adriana says that she is hooked by these few lines and has always had a longing for the past, especially the 1890s. Gil spends each of the next few nights in the past. His late-night wanderings annoy Inez, and arouse the suspicion of her father, who hires a private detective to follow Gil. Meanwhile, Gil spends more and more time with Adriana, who leaves Picasso for a brief dalliance with Hemingway. Gil realizes he is falling in love with her, leaving him in conflict. He confides his predicament to Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, and Luis Buñuel, but being surrealists they see nothing strange about his claim to have come from the future, finding it to be perfectly normal. They discuss the impossibility of Gil's relationship with Adriana, and each of the artists envisages a different masterpiece inspired by such an unusual romance. Later on Gil suggests to a young Luis Buñuel a movie plot, which is none other than the plot of Buñuel's own 1962 film The Exterminating Angel, and leaves while Buñuel continues to question the plot idea.

While Inez shops for furniture, Gil meets Gabrielle, an antiques dealer and fellow admirer of the Lost Generation. Gil later discovers Adriana's diary from the 1920s on a book stall by the Seine and discovers that she was in love with him. Reading that she dreamed of receiving a gift of earrings from him and then making love to him, Gil attempts to steal a pair of earrings from Inez to give to Adriana, but is thwarted by Inez's early return from a trip.

Gil purchases earrings for Adriana and, returning to the past, declares his love for her. As they kiss, they are invited inside a horse-drawn carriage by a richly-dressed couple and are transported back to the 1890s Belle Époque, an era Adriana considers Paris's Golden Age. They are taken to Maxim's Paris, and eventually to the Moulin Rouge where they meet Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, and Edgar Degas. When Gil asks what they thought the best era was, the three determine that the greatest era was the Renaissance. The enthralled Adriana is offered a job designing ballet costumes, and proposes to Gil that they stay. Gil, however, upon observing that different people long for different "golden ages", undergoes an epiphany, and realizes that despite the allure of nostalgia, it is better to accept the present for what it is. Adriana elects to stay in the 1890s, and they part.

Having re-written the first two chapters[7] Gil retrieves his novel from Stein, who praises his progress as a writer and tells him that Hemingway likes it[7] but questions why the main character has not realized that his fiancée (based on Inez) is having an affair with a pedantic character (based on Paul). Gil returns to 2010 and confronts Inez. She admits to having slept with Paul, but dismisses it as a meaningless fling. Gil breaks up with her and decides to move to Paris. Inez's parents agree with Gil when he tells her that they are not right for each other. Amid Inez's pique, Gil calmly leaves, after which Inez's father confesses to her and his wife that he had Gil followed, though the detective mysteriously disappeared (it is revealed that he was transported to the 18th century). Taking a walk across the Seine at midnight, Gil meets Gabrielle and, after it starts to rain, offers to walk her home and learns that she shares his love of Paris in the rain.


The cast includes (in credits order):[9]

Owen is a natural actor. He doesn't sound like he's acting, he sounds like a human being speaking in a situation, and that's very appealing to me. He's got a wonderful funny bone, a wonderful comic instinct that's quite unlike my own, but wonderful of its kind. He's a blonde Texan kind of Everyman's hero, the kind of hero of the regiment in the old war pictures, with a great flair for being amusing. It's a rare combination and I thought he'd be great."

— Woody Allen, in production notes about the film[10]

This is the second time McAdams and Wilson co-starred as a couple; they did so before in 2005's Wedding Crashers. In comparing the two roles, McAdams describes the one in Midnight in Paris as being far more antagonistic than the role in Wedding Crashers.[11] Allen had high praises for her performance and that of co-star Marion Cotillard.[12] Cotillard was cast as Wilson's other love interest, the charismatic Adriana.

Carla Bruni, singer-songwriter and wife of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was recruited by Allen for a role as a museum guide.[13] There were false reports that Allen re-filmed Bruni's scenes with Léa Seydoux,[3] but Seydoux rebuffed these rumours revealing she had an entirely separate role in the film.[14] Allen also shot down reports that a scene with Bruni required over 30 takes: "I am appalled. I read these things and I could not believe my eyes...These are not exaggerations, but inventions from scratch. There is absolutely no truth." He continued to describe Bruni as "very professional" and insisted he was pleased with her scenes, stating that "every frame will appear in the film."[15]



Allen employed a reverse approach in writing the screenplay for this film, by building the film's plot around a conceived movie title, 'Midnight in Paris'.[16] Allen originally wrote the character Gil as an east coast intellectual, but he rethought it when he and casting director Juliet Taylor began considering Owen Wilson for the role.[10] "I thought Owen would be charming and funny but my fear was that he was not so eastern at all in his persona," says Allen. Allen realized that making Gil a Californian would actually make the character richer, so he rewrote the part and submitted it to Wilson, who readily agreed to do it. Allen describes him as "a natural actor".[10]


Principal photography began in Paris in July 2010.[17] Allen states that the fundamental aesthetic for the camera work was to give the film a warm ambiance. He describes that he likes it (the cinematography), "intensely red, intensely warm, because if you go to a restaurant and you're there with your wife or your girlfriend, and it's got red-flecked wallpaper and turn-of-the-century lights, you both look beautiful. Whereas if you're in a seafood restaurant and the lights are up, everybody looks terrible. So it looks nice. It's very flattering and very lovely."[16] To achieve this he and his cinematographer, Darius Khondji, used primarily warm colors in the film's photography, filmed in flatter weather and employed limited camera movements, in attempts to draw little attention to itself. This is the first Woody Allen film to go through a digital intermediate, instead of being color timed in the traditional photochemical way. According to Allen, its use here is a test to see if he likes it enough to use on his future films.[18]

Allen's directorial style placed more emphasis on the romantic and realistic elements of the film, than the fantasy elements. He states that he "was interested only in this romantic tale, and anything that contributed to it that was fairy tale was right for me. I didn't want to get into it. I only wanted to get into what bore down on his (Owen Wilson's) relationship with Marion."[16]


The film opens with a 3 12-minute postcard-view montage of Paris, showing the usual and iconic tourist sites. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times describes the montage as a stylistic approach that lasts longer than necessary to simply establish location. According to Turan, "Allen is saying: Pay attention — this is a special place, a place where magic can happen."[19] Midnight in Paris is the first Woody Allen film shot entirely on location in Paris, though both Love and Death (1975)[20] and Everyone Says I Love You (1996)[21] were partially filmed there.

Filming locations include Giverny, John XXIII Square (near Notre Dame), Montmartre, the Palace of Versailles, the Opéra, the Sacré-Cœur, the Île de la Cité itself, and streets near the Panthéon.[13] The street from which Gil is taken back into the past by the vintage car is the Rue Saint-Étienne du Mont.[22]


The film is co-produced by Allen's Gravier Productions and the Catalan company Mediapro[23] and was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics for distribution. It is the fourth film the two companies have co-produced, the others being Sweet and Lowdown, Whatever Works and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

The Sony Classics team decided to take a lemon and make lemonade. They obtained a list of reporters who were invited to the Cars 2 junket and sent them press notes from Midnight in Paris, encouraging them to ask Wilson questions about the Allen film during the Pixar media day. Wilson happily complied, answering queries about his character in Paris that provided material for a host of stories. Sony Classics also got a hold of Wilson's schedule of TV appearances to promote Cars 2 on shows like Late Show with David Letterman, then bought ad time for Paris spots on the nights when Wilson was a guest.[24]

—Patrick Goldstein, Los Angeles Times

In promoting the film, Allen was willing to do only a limited amount of publicity at the film's Cannes Film Festival, during its debut in May. Wilson was already committed to promoting Pixar's Cars 2, which opened in late June, several weeks after Allen's film arrived in theaters. Due to these challenges and the relatively small ($10 million) budget for promotion, Sony Classics had to perform careful media buying and press relations to promote the film.[24]

The film's poster is a reference to Vincent van Gogh's 1889 painting The Starry Night.[25]


Owen Wilson and Woody Allen promoting the film at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

Box office

The film made its debut at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, May 11, where it opened the festival as a first-ever screening for both professionals and the public;[26] it was released nationwide in France that same day, Wednesday being the traditional day of change in French cinemas.[27] It went on limited release in six theaters in the United States on May 20 and took USD$599,003 in the first weekend, spreading to 944 theaters three weeks later, when it went on wide release.[2]

Midnight in Paris achieved the highest gross of any of Allen's films, before adjusting for inflation, in North America. As of December 18, 2011, the film earned $56,293,474 in North America, overtaking his previous best, Hannah and Her Sisters, at $40 million.[28]

Critical reception

Midnight in Paris received an enthusiastic critical response; Rotten Tomatoes reports that 93 percent of critics surveyed have given the film a positive review; based on a sample of 202 American reviews, with an average score of 7.8 out of 10. It summarises the consensus, "It may not boast the depth of his classic films, but the sweetly sentimental Midnight in Paris is funny and charming enough to satisfy Woody Allen fans."[29] The film has received Allen's best reviews and score on the site since 1994's Bullets Over Broadway.[30] The website Metacritic gave the film 81 out of 100, based on 40 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[31]

The film received some generally positive reviews after its premiere at the 64th Cannes Film Festival. Todd McCarthy from The Hollywood Reporter praised Darius Khondji's cinematography and claimed the film "has the concision and snappy pace of Allen's best work".[32]

A. O. Scott of The New York Times commented on Owen Wilson's success at playing the Woody Allen persona. He states that the film is marvelously romantic and credibly blends "whimsy and wisdom". He praised Khondji's cinematography, the supporting cast and remarked that it is a memorable film and that "Mr. Allen has often said that he does not want or expect his own work to survive, but as modest and lighthearted as Midnight in Paris is, it suggests otherwise: Not an ambition toward immortality so much as a willingness to leave something behind—a bit of memorabilia, or art, if you like that word better—that catches the attention and solicits the admiration of lonely wanderers in some future time."[33]

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 12 stars out of 4. He ended his review thus:[34]

This is Woody Allen's 41st film. He writes his films himself, and directs them with wit and grace. I consider him a treasure of the cinema. Some people take him for granted, although "Midnight in Paris" reportedly charmed even the jaded veterans of the Cannes press screenings. There is nothing to dislike about it. Either you connect with it or not. I'm wearying of movies that are for "everybody" — which means, nobody in particular. "Midnight in Paris" is for me, in particular, and that's just fine with moi."

Richard Roeper, an American film critic, gave Midnight in Paris an "A"; referring to it as a "wonderful film" and "one of the best romantic comedies in recent years". He commented that the actors are uniformly brilliant and praised the film's use of witty one-liners.[35]

In The Huffington Post, Rob Kirkpatrick said the film represented a return to form for the director ("it's as if Woody has rediscovered Woody") and called Midnight in Paris "a surprising film that casts a spell over us and reminds us of the magical properties of cinema, and especially of Woody Allen's cinema."[36]

Midnight in Paris has been compared to Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), in that the functioning of the magical realism therein is never explained. David Edelstein, New York, commended that approach, stating that it eliminates, "the sci-fi wheels and pulleys that tend to suck up so much screen time in time-travel movies." He goes on to applaud the film stating that, "this supernatural comedy isn't just Allen's best film in more than a decade; it's the only one that manages to rise above its tidy parable structure and be easy, graceful, and glancingly funny, as if buoyed by its befuddled hero's enchantment."[37]

Peter Johnson of PopCitizen felt that the film's nature as a "period piece" was far superior to its comedic components, which he referred to as lacking. "While the period settings of Midnight in Paris are almost worth seeing the film . . . it hardly qualifies as a moral compass to those lost in a nostalgic revelry," he asserts.[38]

Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal acknowledged the cast and the look of the film and, despite some familiarities with the film's conflict, praised Allen's work on the film. He wrote, "For the filmmaker who brought these intertwined universes into being, the film represents new energy in a remarkable career.".[39]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, giving the film 3 out of 5 stars, described it as "an amiable amuse-bouche" and "sporadically entertaining, light, shallow, self-plagiarising." He goes on to add that it's "a romantic fantasy adventure to be compared with the vastly superior ideas of his comparative youth, such as the 1985 movie The Purple Rose of Cairo."[40] In October 2013, the film was voted by the Guardian readers as the ninth best film directed by Woody Allen.[41]

More scathing is Richard Corliss of Time, who describes the film as "pure Woody Allen. Which is not to say great or even good Woody, but a distillation of the filmmaker's passions and crotchets, and of his tendency to pass draconian judgment on characters the audience is not supposed to like. . . . his Midnight strikes not sublime chimes but the clangor of snap judgments and frayed fantasy."[42]

Quentin Tarantino named Midnight in Paris as his favorite film of 2011.[43]

The film was well received in France. The website Allocine (Hello Cinema) gave it 4.2 out of 5 stars based on a sample of twenty reviews.[27] Ten of the reviews gave it a full five stars, including Le Figaro, which praised the film's evocation of its themes and said "one leaves the screening with a smile on one's lips".[44]

Faulkner estate

The William Faulkner estate later filed a lawsuit against Sony Pictures Classics for the film's bit of dialogue, "The past is not dead. Actually, it's not even past," a paraphrasing of an often-quoted line from Faulkner's 1950 book Requiem for a Nun ("The past is never dead. It's not even past."), claiming that the paraphrasing was an unlicensed use of the estate. Faulkner is directly credited in the dialogue when Gil claims to have met the writer at a dinner party (though Faulkner is never physically portrayed in the film). Julie Ahrens of the Fair Use Project at the Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society was quoted as saying in response to the charge, "The idea that one person can control the use of those particular words seems ridiculous to me. Any kind of literary allusion is ordinarily celebrated. This seems to squarely fall in that tradition." Sony's response stated that they consider the action "a frivolous lawsuit".[45] In July 2013, a federal judge in Mississippi dismissed the lawsuit on fair use grounds.[46]


List of awards and nominations
Award Category Recipient(s) Result
84th Academy Awards[47][48] Best Picture Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum Nominated
Best Director Woody Allen Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Woody Allen Won
Best Art Direction Anne Seibel, Hélène Dubreuil Nominated
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Film Nominated
Best Director Woody Allen Nominated
Best Screenplay Original Woody Allen Won
Best Ensemble Cast Nominated
Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts[49] Best Film – International Nominated
Best Direction – International Woody Allen Nominated
Best Screenplay – International Woody Allen Nominated
65th British Academy Film Awards[50][51] BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay Woody Allen Nominated
Bradbury Award[52] Bradbury Award Woody Allen Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Picture Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Woody Allen Won
Best Comedy Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Original Screenplay Woody Allen Nominated
2012 Comedy Awards Comedy Film Nominated
Comedy Actor Owen Wilson Nominated
Comedy Director Woody Allen Nominated
Comedy Screenplay Woody Allen Nominated
Directors Guild of America Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film Woody Allen Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Director Woody Allen Nominated
Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Owen Wilson Nominated
Best Screenplay Woody Allen Won
Goya Awards
Best Original Screenplay Woody Allen Nominated
Grammy Awards[53] Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media Won
Houston Film Critics Society Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Director Woody Allen Nominated
Best Screenplay Woody Allen Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards Best Supporting Male Corey Stoll Nominated
Best Cinematography Darius Khondji Nominated
National Society of Film Critics Best Screenplay Woody Allen Nominated
New York Film Critics Online Best Film Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Best Original Screenplay Woody Allen Won
Producers Guild of America Awards Best Theatrical Motion Picture Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Director Woody Allen Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Rachel McAdams Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Director Woody Allen Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Woody Allen Won
Writers Guild of America Awards Original Screenplay Woody Allen Won
11th Grande Prêmio Brasileiro de Cinema Best Foreign Film Woody Allen Won

Home media

The soundtrack was released on December 9, 2011, and released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 20, 2011.[54]


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