See this movie. No, really. See it. Heck, just go on and buy yourself a copy.
I had heard a little buzz about it, but didn't give it much thought since I'm not a huge fan of Woody Allen (too much whiny angst, as Mister says) or Owen Wilson (plays the same character in every movie). Then my big brother recommended it to me. Big Brother has impeccable taste and has never let me down, except for that Christmas when I was 6 years old and he gave me this horrible troll-like stuffed animal-thing, but that's a whole 'nother story. Anyhow, the first time I went to go put it in my Netflix queue, it wasn't available, so I promptly forgot about it. Something triggered my memory a few weeks ago, and I ordered the movie.
Seriously, this is one of the most adorable things I've seen in a long time, in spite of Woody Allen and Owen Wilson. It just so happens that Wilson's natural goofiness is perfect in his role as Gil Pender, a burned-out screenwriter/hopeful novelist who longs to be in 1920s Paris. It's evident from the start that his relationship with his fiancee Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, is ill-fated when she makes faces about walking in Paris in the rain. She has no imagination and her parents are even worse.
Gil and Inez are in Paris for some pre-wedding shopping and a visit with her parents, who are there on a business trip. And then there's the pedantic Paul, a friend of Inez's who is an expert on everydamnthing and is happy to tell everydamnone. (I couldn't decide who was worse: Inez, her parents, or Paul.) It's Paul who makes the comment that people who long for the past are just living in a fantasy world of false romantic notions because they can't handle the present. (More on that later.)
Understandably, Gil would prefer to spend some time alone in his beloved Paris than hang around with these jokers, so that's what he does. While he's sitting on a sidewalk bench at midnight, an antique car pulls up, and the partygoers inside tell him to get in the car - and they promptly drive off into the 1920s.
Gil meets Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, and my personal favorite, Salvador Dali, played by Adrien Brody. He also meets a beatiful French woman, Adriana, with whom he promptly falls in love. Adriana wants to go back to the France of the 1890s.
I don't have to tell you that chaos ensues, in 1920 and 2011. I won't spoil the conclusion, but I will point out that in each of these time periods, someone wants to go Somewhere Else. The artists of La Belle Epoque want to go back to the Renaissance. Is it because they can't handle the present, as Pedantic Paul says early in the movie, or is it simply because they feel a connection to the past?
Well, I can only speak for myself, but I don't think I have any false romantic notions about life before running water, sanitation, and migraine meds that work. I love to study history because I want to know what the people who came before me did, and to keep some of those skills alive. I love the 21st century, mostly, but I think it's prudent to know how to get along if the power goes out. It's great being able to use all the modern technology and whatnot, but we still need to know what to do when those things aren't available. I mean, I don't know about you, but I intend to survive the impending Zombie Apocalypse.
Besides that, we are irrevocably connected to our ancestors. That's a fact. And it's darn near impossible to move ahead without first considering what came before. I know you've all heard the one about "those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."
History is part of the fabric of the future, after all.
Till next time ---- get some popcorn and have a movie night.