Film Review – Midnight in Paris

Midnight-In-Paris-IMDB

Source: IMDB

I have wanted to watch this movie since it was released in 2011. Paris? Check. Artists, writers, and time travel to some of the most iconic times to be alive? Check. Great cast? Check! It just had so much to recommend it.

I should probably tell you that aside from Antz, which I hated, this is the first Woody Allen film I’ve ever seen. I swear that Annie Hall is on my list, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. I finally watched Midnight in Paris at the beginning of this month, and I was not disappointed. The imagery is beautiful, the premise and plot are very well done, and the intermingling of the present day with the past was just fantastic.

Owen Wilson’s character, Gil, is a screenwriter turned struggling author. He dreams of moving to Paris and renting out an attic like Hemingway and Fitzgerald did in the 20’s. In effect, he is living Fitzgerald’s life in reverse, since Fitzgerald was an author and became a screenwriter. Gil’s fiancé, Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, comes from a wealthy family and dreams of living a lavish lifestyle in California. She thinks Gil would do well if he would just concentrate on what he’s good at – writing and rewriting scripts for big blockbusters.

Gil and Inez travel to Paris with Inez’s parents, who are in the country on business. At dinner one evening they run into Paul, Inez’s close friend and biggest crush from college, and his fiancé Carol. Paul is in Paris to give a lecture series at the Sorbonne and invites the couple to accompany them on various sight-seeing expeditions. After each trip, Gil decides to walk home rather than cram into a taxi, and each time he walks home he comes across a Peugeot Type 176 (a car from the 1920’s) that picks him up and takes him to famous places in 1920’s Paris. Along the way, he meets the likes of Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, and Picasso among others.

In between trips to the 20’s, Gil makes progress with his novel and in his life, and the film ends with his decisions being made and feeling a sense of accomplishment and happiness he hasn’t had in years.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys movies about writers and time travel and love, but most of all stories of self-discovery.

 

Highlights and Hot Chocolate Rating: 5 Stars

A Novel Bookstore – Laurence Cossé (T: French-English by Alison Anderson)

a-novel-bookstore-laurence-cosse-translated-by-alison-anderson

Source: Goodreads

The Good Novel has been open just over a year in Paris when three of its secret selection committee members are attacked. Now it is up to Ivan, Franchesca, and officer Heffner to unravel the mystery of who is behind the obvious sabotage attempts before someone ends up dead or the store is forced to close. Told from the view of a mysterious narrator who is determined to write the history of the shop and its founders, A Novel Bookstore will carry its readers away just as the stories available at The Good Novel do its customers.

Part mystery, part romance, all literary, A Novel Bookstore astounded me at every turn. Much of the mystery is left in the dark as the narrator can only share what he/she knows, but with each character introduced the intrigue grows and the reader becomes more involved in the story. At 416 pages, this novel is fairly hefty but definitely worth the read. The translation is impeccable. Only one word was mistranslated, and I think it more likely that it was translated correctly and misspelled/autocorrected to the wrong word. While it is, on occasion, hard to understand whether Ivan or Francesa is speaking during their tête-à-têtes due to quotation mark use, the difficulty is only mildly annoying as it typically doesn’t matter for you to know exactly which of them is speaking.

I enjoyed every page immensely, from the bits about book selling to the selection committee, to the backgrounds of the committee people and Ivan and Francesca’s lives. Whether everything was interesting to me because of my love for all things literary as well as historical, or the way the narrator weaves the history of the store, I was mesmerized by every detail. Most of all, from about a third or halfway through the story, I became obsessed with the idea of the narrator. To write, as an author, from a character’s point of view as if they are the author, fascinated me, and then the fact that we do not find out until the final pages who this mysterious narrator is was just too much. I couldn’t put the book down all week, reading a paragraph here and there anytime I had a moment to myself. It is easy to digest, while at the same time it leaves you wanting so much more. The Jane Austen quote, “If a book is well written I always find it too short.” definitely applies in this case.

I do not know if there will be a sequel to Cossé’s work, especially given the way things ended, but if there ever is another work like it or involving The Good Novel and its colorful cast of characters, I will be there on release day to buy it.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George (T: German-English by Simon Pare)

The-Litte-Paris-Bookshop-Nina-George

via Goodreads

Jean Perdu lives alone and prefers his own company. Yet he still knows everyone’s business in his apartment building, and he owns a bookshop, at which he prescribes books to cure ailments many people are not even aware of. Yes, Monsieur Perdu is a Literary Apothecary. And his shop is no normal bookstore, but a floating book barge on the Seine, moored in the middle of Paris. Convinced after many years to read a letter left him by the one that got away, Perdu embarks on a journey to find closure, and along the way finds himself.

I picked George’s up because it had ‘bookshop’ in the title. Sorry, not sorry. This book is like what happens when your friend who gives great dating advice but never dates finally hits the dating scene. You know they are going to have to learn to swim in the murky waters of the dating pool, but you still just want to do a happy dance. Monsieur Perdu is like this. Throughout the novel he’s always giving people advice and fixing the lives around him, usually by making them read a book or two or ten,  but when it comes to his own life he’s completely adrift. His journey, therefore, is almost part speaking tour, part Eat, Pray, Love. It’s fantastic, and I personally adored every second of it. Not to mention the book is basically a tour of France! Literally, my only gripes with this entire piece are that it starts a little slowly and that I still want more description of the countryside because it’s just so breathtaking! *sigh* Also, did I mention this book was originally released in German? The translation is flawless.

WARNING: This book will make you wish you were a Literary Apothecary. Which is a real job! Kind of. In the U.S. at least, they’re called Book Therapists. According to a super quick Google search I did just now they’re also called Bibliotherapists, and apparently, they’ve been around since Ancient Egypt/Greece. Who knew!

EXTRAS! Besides some delicious sounding recipes, the book also includes a mini book pharmacy, with “Perdu”‘s reading recommendations for your ailments. It’s. Perfect.

HHC Rating:  4.5 Stars

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anne Fowler

Source: Goodreads

Z: A Novel of Zelda Ftizgerald tells the story of Zelda Sayre, a rebellious southern belle who falls in love with army officer and soon to be famous writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. It chronicles their life together, the good, the bad and the downright ugly, in much the same way that Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife does for Hadley, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway. In fact, Hadley makes a couple appearances in Z, as the events of their lives intertwine in more than a few ways.

I purchased this book within weeks of finishing The Paris Wife in 2014. I couldn’t wait to compare their stories and look at life in the 1920’s.  Then I became distracted by other things and a whole year went by with Z sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. When I finally picked it up I wasn’t excited anymore, but I felt that I should read it before I bought more books. The beginning of Z was rather confusing because I expected it to start with Zelda as a child or young woman and instead it began with a letter she was writing to Scott late in their marriage. In addition, I didn’t find Zelda very likable at the beginning. She came across haughty and spoiled with just a touch of naive rebelliousness. I worried that the book would be boring because I disliked her, and then I felt bad about disliking her, and it spiraled from there. I put the book down and didn’t pick it up again for 6 months, at which point I finally gave in and decided to finish it because I hate leaving things undone.

As the story progresses, Zelda matures, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. Being in her mind throughout the story you can feel her growing and – thankfully – becoming for likable. As Zelda and Scott’s marriage deteriorates, Zelda gains unimaginable strength of character and becomes one of my favorite people. She is truly a Renaissance woman. She is a painter, a dancer, and a wonderful writer despite being pushed continually into using Scott’s name on her work. She single-handedly saves their family from ruin at the expense of her own sanity, and then she puts her life back together again. Zelda Fitzgerald becomes a true paragon of a strong woman, and I am thankful every day that Therese Ann Fowler chose to share this version of her with the world.

Living through the ups and downs and twists of a marriage that spans wars and depressions, fame and hospitalization, love and hatred, Zelda is the one holding together not just her own life, but Scott’s as well. Until the very end, she is his biggest supporter as well as his biggest critic, and he is only the better for it.

Probably the part that intrigued me the most was the summer everyone went to the beach because this period of time appeared in both Z and in  The Paris Wife, but from the different women’s points of view. Having read The Paris Wife, in which Zelda and Scott were very minor characters and hardly mentioned, it was fascinating to see Ernest and especially Hadley from Zelda’s point of view in Z. To Zelda, Hadley is a very important person, and someone she strives to understand and even somewhat emulate because of her strength during Ernest’s betrayal. The whole section just made me love these two women even more.

By the time I reached the conclusion of the book, I didn’t want it to be over. The beginning had been explained and I understood the point of starting at the end, since in many ways Zelda’s life came full circle. I would highly recommend Z to anyone who liked The Paris Wife, and to anyone and everyone who enjoys period pieces. In fact, I would recommend that every woman (or just every person, really) should read this book and The Paris Wife because they are just so educational and inspiring and strengthening that I think everyone could gain something from their pages.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars