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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Midnight in Paris, part 1

And for a few hours there was normalcy.  A Saturday without softball.  A Saturday without plans.  A Saturday without expectations.  Ok, there are always expectations.  And the struggle is in managing them.

So we try and remain calm when our daughter protests going to the public pool on a picture perfect day.  Once there she loosens up, sees friends and enjoys her summer for a few hours.  The afternoon provides such a relaxing respite we actually nap in our lawn chairs.  The key to the pool is stay just long enough to avoid using the restrooms.

The highlight of "Normal Suburban Saturday" came in the evening.  With babysitter secured we saw the new Woody Allen film, "Midnight in Paris."  I should preface this review with word or two about the theatre.  After I lamented how "Bridesmaids" at a local AMC nearly destroyed me last week, it is good to have a positive movie going experience.  Chatham, NJ has a one theatre "art house."  $10 bucks  a seat for a night show.  Concession prices are fair and they sell frozen yogurt, coffee and other non-traditional items.    I put up with the 6 or 7 senior citizens who fail to realize how loud there whispers are.  I do it because the theatre typically brings in quality work.  Last night was no exception.

Love or hate Mr Allen you have to admire his work ethic.  Now well into his 70s, Allen continues to churn out scripts and films.  Although in my opinion there have been more misses than hits in recent years (I was the one who thought Vicky Cristina Barcelona was overrated) his films are still note worthy.

Here, he added to my angst giving his leading man role to Owen Wilson.  This is not to say I dislike Wilson, but I WAS a bit over him.  No longer.  Wilson is Gil, a struggling left coast writer on a Parisian holiday with his well to do fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents.  He is struggling to write a novel with a nostalgic theme.  He talks of how this (our) generation is lacking.  He wonders what it would have been like to live in the Golden Age...  for him, 1920's Paris.

Allen magically casts Wilson in this parallel time with a nice plot device.  Through these trips back in time, rubbing elbows with Scott Fitzgerald, Gertude Stein, and Papa himself, Ernest Hemingway, Gil learns more and more about himself.  And maybe when it is all said and done, he can appreciate the present day as much as live in the past.

Allen, who captured New York City so marvelously in several films, namely "Manhattan,"  has cast Paris in an amazing way.  Starting with a minutes long montage set to the 20s jazz Allen reveres, and especially during the flashbacks, Paris is very much the leading lady.  Romance and mystery surround each cobblestone.  Joy and inspiration await around each corner.  Allen looks to promote the City's mystique all the while challenging it.  McAdams' Inez cannot imagine living there.  Her parents loathe the Country's politics.  But Gil is unaffected.  It is the writer's quest he says, "to observe."

With Paris, and with the cast Allen has assembled, there is plenty to observe.  This is Allen at his best.  Funny and smart with a well assembled cast playing off his words with sharpness and wit.  You need not run and find it at your local (read several towns over) art house.  But when it makes it to DVD or Netflix stream, I urge you to take a look.

Special mentions to cinematographers: Johanne Debas and Darius Khondji.  This is a beautiful film to watch.  Also, the supporting cast is special.  Corey Stoll as Hemingway, Adrien Brody as Dali, Kathy Bates as Stein, Yves Heck as Cole Porter, Marion Cotillard as Adriana (a 20s love interest), and Carla Bruni as a contemporary museum guide.  Michael Sheen may have the best part (good to see him playing someone other than Tony Blair.  He plays a foil to Gil and one of Allen's favorite enemies:  an Academic.  Look for the scene when he challenges the museum guide with false information.  One of several laugh out loud moments.

Last note, as someone calls himself a writer I must admit I was embarrassed to know more about the art and film references than writing ones.  Somewhere my English professors are all crying on the inside.

Off to entertain on this rainy Sunday.  Will try and get back to you about the good bar that reminded me of my beloved Par 4 Cafe later tonight.  That was the post movie event.  And congrats Mr. Djocovic for beating Nadal today.  I would have hated to see him take the #1 ranking then lose anyway.

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