Everything We Learned From 'Midnight in Paris'
...and yes, it really is most beautiful in the rain.
It's safe to say that visiting Paris for my first time several weeks ago has only increased my love for Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. In fact, from the moment I first saw the film years ago to the highly awaited moment I first set foot in that oh-so-magical city, I was swept up in the romance and glamour of Paris.
The 2011 film woos the City of Light in a fresh yet particularly charming way, as if they're on extraordinary meet-cute status. So let's just say if my first time in Paris was anything like a first date, it was the best first date of my life. In visiting, I was reminded everywhere I went of the film – and the very similar feelings and lessons it espouses – that I fell in love with long ago.
Prioritize your passions.
Passions here are first and foremost in reference to art, love, and the pursuit of a creative life. In this case, it's writing a book about a man who "works in a nostalgia shop," as we are vaguely reminded again and again by Gil's verbal contemplation, but it's also so much more than that. More so, it's about achieving a dream, and developing the confidence to not only believe it is possible, but to dream it out loud along the way, very much to dream it into being.
And, you know, having Gertrude Stein as a mentor doesn't hurt either. As she reminds Gil after she reads his manuscript, "We all fear death and question our place in the universe. The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence."
No pressure, though.
Surround yourself with people who inspire you.
One of the most important things you can do in the pursuit of living an inspired and inspiring life is to surround yourself with other like-minded, creative individuals – those who truly and purely contribute to your growth.
If it's someone with Hemingway's penchant for clean, brutal honesty ("I believe that love that is true and real, creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving or not loving well, which is the same thing," he tells Gil very casually upon meeting him) or either Fitzgerald's skill at penning stunningly lyrical prose – and drinking copious amounts of alcohol – then so be it.
PS. Can I just mention how much I love Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald? (And Tom Hiddleston in general.)
Always, always ignore the one who tries too hard.
There's always going to be that one person who likes to pretend he or she knows more than they do. And if your girlfriend is a shallow rich girl who happens to be a little too ostentatiously obsessed with this grossly annoying know-it-all (and I'll let you in on a secret: It's decidedly not in a cute, Hermione Granger-esque way), then by all means, dump her for the ghost of Paris past.
Yes, even if she's Rachel McAdams.
And even if McAdams seems to have a learned penchant for playing the mean girl. (Wink, wink; see what I did there?)
Remember to stay present, no matter where you are.
Part of the magic of the film is its appreciation of, even its kind of meta nostalgia for, the magic of the past. But one of its greatest lessons is in the protagonist, Gil, finally learning to accept the pressing beauty of his everyday, as soon as he is willing to truly open his eyes to the present.
There is probably no one today who can pull off the whole Great Gatsby, 1920's flapper look better than Marion Cotillard.
The woman was born for sequins and retro curls. I mean, it doesn't even look like a costume on her.
Hold onto your dreams tightly. Let everything else go lightly.
Loneliness is real no matter where in the world you are, and it's all too easy to buy into a fantasy – especially one that's as utterly romantic as the dreamy Parisian ideal that is served up to both Gil and Adriana on a shining silver Prohibition-era platter.
Of course, Marion Cotillard's character Adriana is a goner from the get-go, but Gil? An idealist, but more than that a furtive visionary through and through, because what other type of person questions each and every single thing in his reality (even if his reality happens to feel less and less real as the plotline continues)?
Part of the viewer's pleasure in watching any great film is that we get to slowly experience the characters develop. We feel for them, we relate to them, and in some cases we even feel an intense desire to take their place. In this one it's no different – but because the protagonist is both a writer and the much-lauded Woody Allen figure here, it's in his voice and realizations of the world around him as he moves through the alternate reality version of Paris, both past and present, that the character development primarily takes place.
Also, I feel it should be said that I would really, really like to travel back in time to 1920's Paris and hang out with Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds – just in case you were wondering.
"Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights, I mean come on. There's nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the cafes, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe."
We are reminded of the reasons we love Gil so much as a character via statements like these – the sweet earnestness of this nevertheless immensely quotable statement, and the very human emotion rolled up into his candid musings, are made ever more believable by the fact that he is so believable. Thanking you kindly, Owen Wilson, for that one.