^ Agreed. Wilson is not a chameleon actor, but someone with his own unmistakable quirky persona. Yet, he was still doing “Woody” while not abandoning his own shtick. This “you put chocolate in my peanut butter” combination of personas could have been a disaster, but happily worked like gangbusters.
For whatever reason, Wilson, in the role, just didn’t work for me—although maybe the Woody Allen’s screen persona—whether played by himself or another actor—has ran its course for me. But let me say something else about the way the recent films differ from some of his older films (especially AN, Manhattan and Hannah). Putting aside Woody Allen’s film persona and the humor, I think these films have really excellent dialogue, acting and insights into relationships. The insights may not be incredibly profound, but they ring true and they’re entertaining to watch. (I just recently re-watched Manhattan and Hannah.) I don’t recall seeing these type of moments in the Woody’s recent films. (I haven’t seen Vicky or Tall Dark.)
Btw, I think some of the female actors who have taken on the Woody role have done really well—e.g., Mia Farrow in Alice or Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives (Davis may not have been playing Woody, but she had the neurosis thing. I think this might have been the last good Woody Allen for me.)
>>The insights may not be incredibly profound, but they ring true and they’re entertaining to watch.<<
This is a purely subjective and personal observation, but I’ve rarely identified with a movie character as closely as I identify with Gil. (Maybe Joel, from Eternal Sunshine, was the last time this happened.)
Well, you liking the film makes a lot of sense then.
Btw, how did you like Rachel McAdams in this? I thought she wasn’t very good. (I had high hopes for her after seeing her in The Notebook and Red Eye. She’s basically been going downhill for me ever since.)
>>Btw, how did you like Rachel McAdams in this?<<
Jazz, I’d consider her a plot device, as opposed to a full blooded character, but this worked for the story as a whole. In order to follow Gil into his nostalgic dreamland, we need a reason for him to be dissatisfied with his real life. McAdams provides this contrast as the anti-Gil and her performance was appropriate to the (after all comic, not realistic) role. Meryl Streep served much the same function in Manhattan.
BTW, my favorite McAdams performance is in Season One of the Canadian comedy about Shakespeare theater, Slings and Arrows.
Wilson’s hapless Texan cluelessness felt utterly wrong to me. I didn’t buy the character for a second or that this person could exist as a screenwriter in Hollywood in the 21st century. The only good recent Woody surrogate was Rebecca Hall.
Let me just be clear and say I don’t think Midnight in Paris is up there with Manhattan or Hannah. In my mind, his last great masterpiece was Husbands and Wives and I don’t think he’ll ever make a film on that caliber again. However in terms of his recent films and of his second tier films, Midnight in Paris was a welcome surprise.
I thought Rachel MacAdams was ok but nothing special. She was playing against type (she’s such a charming, charismatic actor and yet here is supposed to be unlikable) which was fine, although Woody could’ve found someone better.
I understand the purpose her character served, and I didn’t have a problem with that—nor did I have a problem with her character’s lack of depth. I just thought McAdams didn’t work in the role. (I never saw the series you’re talking. The sense I’m getting is that she doesn’t do comedy very well.)
I agree that Wilson felt wrong. For me, he just didn’t seem like he was a writer or an artist type that would be into all those older writers.
“we just didn’t seem like he was a writer or an artist type that would be into all those older writers.”
Based on what? And I’m calling East Coast bias on Ari for linking it to his Texas-ness.
Based on Wilson’s film persona and vibe I get. He is sort of goofy and doesn’t come across as the intellectual type at all—not in a believable way, imo. Contrast that with Woody Allen in the same role. Part of this has to do with physical appearance, but not totally. It’s about casting to an actor’s strengths. Sometimes actors in unexpected roles can make the role work (we were talking about Travolta as Clinton in another thread), but sometimes not. It’s subjective, of course.
Haha, okay, I’ll take back the Texan and substitute goyishness instead. With or without the drawl, he’s about as shegetz as they come.
Shegetz? Sorry, we don’t have many Jewish people in my neck of the woods. And if you’re saying Wilson is not Jewish enough, that wasn’t my problem with him in the role, fwiw.
Note to self: Open Kosher Deli in Hawaii.
Do it Brad! (We actually lost a great one—although I’m not entirely sure if it was kosher—Brent’s in Kailua. One of my favorite restaurants. Better or just as good as any of the delis I tried in NYC.)
Are we saying Wilson doesn’t sound intellectual enough because of his southern accent?
“He is sort of goofy and doesn’t come across as the intellectual type at all—not in a believable way, imo. Contrast that with Woody Allen in the same role.”
Well, really in the film I don’t think he’s supposed to be an intellectual exactly (although apparently he was written that way until Allen revised it after casting Wilson)—Allen’s idea of an intellectual is more Michael Sheen’s character—and this is exactly why Inez doesn’t really buy into him writing the novel, even while she’s still willing to indulge the fantasy. Granted, he’s not a pleasantly nebbish autodidact like Allen himself, so they’re not aligned in that way, but (goyishness notwithstanding) Wilson is a pretty literate guy.
Let’s just recall that bit in Hannah and Her Sisters when Woody decides to explore religions and see if he might become a Christian. He comes home and unpacks a bag with a bible, a cross, a portrait of Jesus and (drum roll, please) a loaf of Wonderbread and mayonnaise. Owen Wilson is to Woody Allen what mayonnaise and wonderbread is to mustard and rye.
_ Wilson is a pretty literate guy._
You mean his screen persona or himself, offscreen? I don’t know if he’s intellectual or not offscreen, but that’s irrelevant, imo. (Woody Allen claims that he’s nothing like his on screen persona, saying that he’s just a regular guy who likes to drink beer and watch sports.) If I’m choosing someone to play a writer—someone who loved Fitzgerald, Hemingway, etc.—Wilson is not a guy I would have chosen.
From Wilson’s own persona, I thought he brought some wide-eyed innocence and unbridled enthusiasm to Gil. This shifted the characterization from what it would have been with purely “Woody” mannerisms.
“Owen Wilson is to Woody Allen what mayonnaise and wonderbread is to mustard and rye.”
Seth Rogen is Jewish . . . would that have been better?
“You mean his screen persona or himself, offscreen? I don’t know if he’s intellectual or not offscreen, but that’s irrelevant, imo. "
Well, I don’t know if Gil is much different from, for example, Eli Cash (unless we’re going to argue that a nostalgia shop is “more literary” than a Western), really, and yeah actually in real life Wilson is the kind of guy who does like Fitzgerald and Hemingway. The point I’m making is this: as much as anything, aren’t the qualities you’re attributing to Wilson based on presupposition drawn from other things you seen him in, a kind of mental typecasting? You (and I don’t mean you, specifically) are more willing to except a Michael Sheen-type as “the intellectual” than Wilson, but that’s part of what the film is playing on.
The point I’m making is this: as much as anything, aren’t the qualities you’re attributing to Wilson based on presupposition drawn from other things you seen him in, a kind of mental typecasting?
Oh sure. But that’s the way these things work, right? If you mean I’m prejudiced in some way—refusing to allow myself to see him outside his other roles—well, I guess that’s a possibility (one never can be absolutely sure, I guess). I don’t think that’s what I’m doing though. I didn’t hate the film, btw; just thought it was OK.
You (and I don’t mean you, specifically) are more willing to except a Michael Sheen-type as “the intellectual” than Wilson, but that’s part of what the film is playing on.
But for this to work, the viewer has to buy that Wilson is intelligent, cultured and a serious writer, right? In Allen’s other films, there’s a similar dynamic (e.g., Allen and Keaton in Manhattan talking about the “overrated hall of fame”), but it works because Allen is more convincing—at least to me, anyway.
FWIW, Seth Rogen would not have worked for me. (He would have made it worse!)
Notice how no one wanted to touch that. :) (I know I didn’t. I don’t want Jerry to kick my a**. :)
Seriously, I didn’t really think of a Gil as a Southerner and I wouldn’t have pointed out the Southern accent. If he has one, that might contribute to his goofiness, though. :) (All you people from the American South: I’m kidding.)
I laugh, and laugh and laugh….
Seth Rogen is awful so I’ll have to say no to that. Maybe Adam Sandler? Actually, I think Adrien Brody would have been a better choice in the role (but he still couldn’t have saved that character as it was written).
This comment by Woody Allen is revealing:
“The lead was a more East Coast character in the original script (casting director) Juliet Taylor suggested Owen Wilson. I had always been a fan of his, but always felt that has a very West Coast persona. He belongs very much at home on a beach or with a surfboard. So I rewrote the script, making the character a West Coast character.”
What did Woody do to make the character more “West Coast” as opposed to “East Coast”? (And shall we just assume he’s not referring to Hip Hop?) And what does this mean in the context of his professed hostility towards the West Coast?
Michael Sheen’s character pissed me off to no end. I’m so tired of Woody’s anti-intellectualisms.
“But for this to work, the viewer has to buy that Wilson is intelligent, cultured and a serious writer, right? "
Incidentally, are we supposed to believe that Gil is actually a good writer? I’m wondering if people who liked the film thought so. I just assumed he was a hack and his book sounded awful.
Ari said, I’m so tired of Woody’s anti-intellectualisms.
Wait. You think Woody Allen is hostile to intellectuals and “intellectualism?” He pokes fun at the pretentious intellectual—which I find funny (not in the recent film, imo—but mainly because the gags just seemed stale). That doesn’t make him (or me) an anti-intellectual, though.
Ari: I just assumed he was a hack and his book sounded awful.
I think the film intends for the viewer to see him as a good writer. (Gertrude Stein loves his writing.) The film doesn’t work well if he’s a hack. Hence, my reaction.
But for this to work, the viewer has to buy that Wilson is intelligent, cultured and a serious writer, right?
It’s more like you have to buy he is passionate, sincere and romantic in opposition to cynic and pretentious. He certainly was that and he had just to be cultured enough. Besides, Gertrude Stein loved his writting not neccessarily because he was a good and intelectual writter but probably because the novel was “special” (like ScF) which is explained by the difference of times.
EDIT: Matt Park said that already, sorry.
“the viewer has to buy that Wilson is intelligent, cultured and a serious writer, right?”
Well, not a SERIOUS writer. He’s a screenwriter from Malibu, right? hahaha
@Jazz – Yeah, nobody touched that. That’s ok. I’d agree with the southern drawl thing except Bill Clinton talks funny and I consider him to be one of the smartest guys around (well, almost). lol
But yes, in all seriousness, the character seemed more beachy west coast than southern.
Woody has made some great yet very inconsistent efforts, but for me his worked never peaked past “stardust memories”. In regards to his authorship and aesthetics it really is his most complete work. It is the definitive Woody Allen film.
“Wait. You think Woody Allen is hostile to intellectuals and “intellectualism?” He pokes fun at the pretentious intellectual—which I find funny (not in the recent film, imo—but mainly because the gags just seemed stale). That doesn’t make him (or me) an anti-intellectual, though.”
There is a sharp divergence between Woody Allen as persona and Woody Allen as person. To quote Woody himself, “I’ve never been an intellectual but I have this look.” Although his persona is widely seen to be an “intellectual,” his films manifest continued hostility towards academics and “thinkers.” It’s not really self-effacing or self-loathing either – they are always targeted from the outside. In that sense, this intellectual as stuffy and pompous windbag provides a very easy target and fits in nicely with the general climate of intellectual hostility in the U.S.
Ari said, Although his persona is widely seen to be an “intellectual,” his films manifest continued hostility towards academics and “thinkers."
I agree that there is hostility towards certain types of intellectuals. But I’ve always viewed his screen persona as the intellectual type—not academic, but maybe an autodidact as Matt mentioned. The films portray this aspect of his character—and the intellectual conversations he has with his on screen friends (in AH, Manhattan and Hannah)—in a positive light, imo. Let me put it this way. When I was growing up, his screen persona made me interested in higher culture. He made it look the cool (e.g., the gags that referenced higher culture). I dont’ know, maybe I completely misread his character, but that’s how I took him—and still take the character.
" If you mean I’m prejudiced in some way—refusing to allow myself to see him outside his other roles—well, I guess that’s a possibility"
I meant to really just raise it as a possibility to you.
“it works because Allen is more convincing—at least to me, anyway.”
Yeah, I’ve never found this aspect of Allen’s films persona particularly convincing as intellectual discourse. It seems to me more representative of bourgeois culture of a specific place (NYC and environs) at a specific time.
I’d actually forgotten that Brody was in the film, Ari. He seems to have been floundering for the last several years. David Krumholtz, maybe?
“the character seemed more beachy west coast than southern.”
His accent and phrasing are unmistakable Texan. Intellectually, I see him as more aligned with Austin than with California gone to California for professional reasons . . . which more or less squares with Wilson himself.