Midnight In Paris (2011) And Nostalgia: Ending Explained

This post includes a plot summary, an explanation about the ending of the film Midnight In Paris, a brief discussion about nostalgia and a character analysis of Gil Pender. Beware of spoilers.

midnight in paris nostalgia and ending explained

Whether you are a Woody Allen fan or not, you can’t deny the impeccable aesthetics of his films. The plot of Midnight In Paris is pretty surreal. A lot of things don’t make sense. However, that’s what makes a good Woody Allen film.

Midnight In Paris – Plot Summary

Gil is a Hollywood screenwriter on a trip to Paris with his fiancée Inez and her family. He wants to move to Paris, but his fiancée is against the idea. During their stay, they meet by chance Paul and his wife Carol.

After a casual night out with Inez’s friends, Gil decides to wander the streets of Paris all by himself. At midnight, a 1920s car stops by and the passengers (also dressed accordingly) rush Gil to join in. Gil accepts the ride and joins them. Then, he arrives at a party attended by most notable people from the 1920s. He meets Ernest Hemingway and they start discussing about writing. After their conversation, Hemingway offers to show Gil’s novel to Gertrude Stein. As he exits the building to get his novel, the building transforms and he’s back to the present.

The next night, he brings Inez to the same exact spot. Gil tells Inez about his time travel experience, but she leaves him before the clock hits midnight. Shortly after, a 1920s car appears and Hemingway picks up Gil to meet Gertrude Stein. At her apartment, Gil meets Picasso and his lover Adriana.

Gil continues his time travels escapades but Inez is starting to become annoyed with his wanderings. As a result, her father suggests hiring a private detective to follow Gil. Meanwhile, Adriana and Gil grow closer but he feels conflicted about his attraction to her.

During a daytime stroll, Gil finds Adriana’s diary at a book stall by the Seine. The diary reveals that Adriana was in love with Gil. She talks about making love to him after receiving a pair earrings. After reading this entry, Gil takes a pair of Inez’s earrings to gift to Adriana. However, his plan fails because of Inez’s early return. As a result, Gil gets another pair of earrings and meets up with Adriana. He takes her for a walk and kisses her. While she puts her earrings on, a carriage passes by and a couple invites Gil and Adriana for a ride. The carriage transports them straight to the Belle Époque.

In the presence of prominent figures, Gil asks them what they thought the best era was and they all answer: The Renaissance. Meanwhile, Adriana asks Gil to stay. However, he comes to the following realization: different people have different golden ages. The allure of nostalgia is based upon a romanticized idea about the past. In other words, any time can become dull if we don’t embrace it. Nonetheless, Adriana chooses to stay in the 1800s and they part ways.

Gil rewrites the two first chapters of his novel and Gertrude Stein praises his progress. However, she can’t understand why the main character is not aware that his fiancée is having an affair. When Gil returns to the present, he confronts Inez. She admits to sleeping with Paul, but dismisses the affair by saying it was just a fling. Gil breaks up with her and decides to move to Paris.

During a walk in the Seine, Gil bumps into Gabrielle. Then, it starts to rain. He offers to walk her home. Then, they both learn about their mutual love for Paris in the rain.

Midnight In Paris – Ending Explained

What is Midnight In Paris about? The film is mainly about nostalgia and escapism. As Paul puts it: “Nostalgia is denial. Denial of the painful present.” In other words, people tend to romanticize the past because they have difficulty coping with the present. Having said that, the time travelling in the film is a metaphor for escapism. What led Gil to enter that car full of strangers? At the moment, he wanted to escape from his “dull” present.

Why didn’t he stay with Adriana? First, he left Adriana because la Belle Époque was not his golden age. Second, he came to the realization that everybody romanticizes the past. Therefore, escaping to a different past is not the solution. Instead, one should embrace what the present has to offer. For that same reason, he decided not stay in the 1920s.

midnight in paris gil pender party

Gil Pender – Character Analysis

Gil is on a self-discovery journey. All of his trips to the past enabled him to learn a little more about himself and what he wants in life. Towards the end, he becomes more confident about his life’s direction. As a matter of fact, he came to several realizations. First, he should pursue his writing aspirations. Second, he should move to Paris.

Although Gil’s character is extremely likeable, he’s also a bit spineless and his morals are questionable. For instance, Gil likes Adriana but he doesn’t want to stay with her. Honestly, Gil doesn’t know what he really wants. His engagement to Inez is another prime example. Gil is an engaged man, but he still allows himself to fancy other women during his time travel escapades. What does that say about Gil’s morals? Inez was indeed insufferable, but her fiancé wasn’t better than her. He tried to steal her earrings to gift them to another woman!

Final Thoughts

Is Midnight In Paris fantasy or reality? Well, it depends. If you take it literally, then yes, time travel happens in the film. Gil really meets all those famous figures presented in the film. However, the whole film could also be read as a dream. All those encounters, could be manifestations from Gil’s conscience. After all, he’s trying to learn more about himself and confront parts of himself that he doesn’t want to deal with (i.e. Inez cheating on him).

Having said that, there’s no real logic behind a film like Midnight In Paris. However, if you are able to get over the time travelling aspect of the film, you’ll find Midnight In Paris quite magical. Nostalgia is definitely the recurrent theme of film. Gil is living in the present, but he’s fantasizing about the past. Throughout the film, you realize that everyone romanticizes the past.

Overall, Midnight In Paris is an unforgettable visual experience. That’s why I enjoy Woody Allen’s films. As I was watching it, I felt like I was there. Though, I wasn’t feeling too empathetic about Gil’s character, I understood his motivations. All the other characters felt a bit one-dimensional, except Adriana. Unlike Inez, it’s harder to pin-point who/what Adriana really is. In addition, the cameos were just precious to watch. I mean, where else will you ever find Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald in the same scene? Priceless.