Gil Pender (Movie) Character in “Midnight in Paris”

This post includes a character analysis of Gil Pender, the protagonist of the 2011 film “Midnight in Paris”. Beware of spoilers.

The 2011 fantasy comedy directed by Woody Allen stars Owen Wilson as Gil Pender.

Midnight in Paris

In Midnight in Paris, Gil Pender is a successful (but unhappy) Hollywood screenwriter who dreams of becoming a novelist. He and his fiancée, Inez, travel to France to spend some days in Paris. Gil is in love with the city, but Inez seems bored and prefers to hang out with her pretentious friends.

One night, Gil wanders the streets alone and gets into a vintage car that takes him back to the 1920s. There, he meets his literary idols, such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. Gil also falls in love with Adriana, a beautiful muse who inspires many artists.

Gil returns to the past every night, leaving Inez suspicious and annoyed. The man learns from Stein that his novel is good but needs some changes. Then one night, Gil and Ariana are transported to the Belle Époque. She wants to stay, but Gil realizes that he belongs to his own time and leaves her behind.

Back in present time, Gil decides to end his engagement with Inez, who has been cheating on him with an acquaintance. After that, Gil decides to stay in Paris and pursue his writing career. During a random walk, he runs into Gabrielle, a charming antiques dealer who shares his love for the city.

Note: For those who are interested, here is another article discussing the meaning behind the ending of “Midnight in Paris” (2011).

Gil Pender Character Analysis in “Midnight in Paris”

“Midnight in Paris” presents Gil Pender as a screenwriter who is struggling to finish his debut novel. He has a strong fascination for Paris and its rich artistic history, especially the 1920s. During his stay in the city, Gil Pender often finds himself travelling back to the 1920s.

In terms of personality, Gil Pender is affable and modest. The man possesses a charming nature that allows him to make new friends easily. Despite being a successful professional creative, Gil still thinks that there is something missing in his life.

Gil Pender Nostalgia and Escapism

The protagonist of Midnight in Paris, Gil Pender, is the personification of nostalgia and escapism. He longs for a different time and place, especially 1920s Paris. Gil is an aspiring writer who believes that era would help him find his true artistic expression and happiness.

Gil Pender is nostalgic for 1920s Paris because he admires the writers, artists, and musicians who lived and worked there. From Gil’s point of view, these figures were the epitome of creativity, passion and freedom. That also led Gil to romanticize the lifestyle and culture of that era.

The feeling of nostalgia is also closely linked to escapism, the tendency to seek distraction or relief from unpleasant realities by immersing oneself in a different “world”. In “Midnight in Paris”, time travelling is Gil’s way to escape his current problems.

Before meeting Adriana, Gil was in an unfulfilling relationship with Inez. Not only that, but the man felt an immense lack of artistic satisfaction. Despite wanting to write a novel, Gil didn’t feel particularly confident about the task. That, altogether, made Gil want to escape to a different “reality”.

Gil Pender’s Character Evolution

The protagonist of “Midnight in Paris” undergoes a significant transformation throughout the film. Gil Pender starts out as a disillusioned and unhappy screenwriter who feels trapped in a materialistic and superficial lifestyle with his fiancée (Inez) and her parents.

Gil’s time travels to 1920s Paris made him gradually realize that his idealization of the past was a form of escapism from his present problems. Through his interactions with his “idols” and Adriana, Gil learns that every era has its own challenges and flaws. At the end of the day, no one is truly satisfied with their own time.

After learning his “lesson”, Gil manages to complete his first novel. From this experience, Gil gained more confidence as a writer. In addition, he was also finally able to fill the artistic void that he had been feeling for a while.

The ending scene of “Midnight in Paris” has a lot of symbolism behind it as it suggests that Gil has finally moved on from the 1920s. His focus belongs now in the present. Although Gil still appreciates the past, he sees it more as a source of inspiration than a destination. It seems that Gil is embracing the idea that life is unpredictable and full of surprises.

Gil Pender and Relationships

There are two romantic relationships explored in “Midnight in Paris”. The first one would be Gil and Inez’s relationship. And the second one is Gil and Adriana’s romance.

Gil and Inez

The relationship between Gil and Inez is ill-suited, as they share very little compatibility as a couple. She does not share Gil’s love for Paris and refuses to move to the city. In addition, Inez is also a materialistic individual who does not support Gil’s creative ambitions. She wants Gil to stay in Hollywood as a screenwriter because it’s a more lucrative career.

The couple’s differences eventually led to the end of their engagement. Their relationship seems somewhat superficial because none of them seemed faithful to each other. Inez cheated on Gil while they were vacationing in Paris. Meanwhile, Gil also did Inez wrong by starting an emotional affair with Adriana.

Gil and Adriana

An unexpected bond formed between Gil and Adriana due to their shared love for the past. Despite the mutual attraction, their short-lived romance never develops into something deeper. Adriana and Gil chose to part ways because she wanted to stay in the Belle Époque and Gil did not.

His time with Adriana made Gil realize that everyone romanticizes the past to a certain degree. However, living in a different time period won’t really solve one’s problems in the present. After this realization, Gil stopped travelling to the past.

Final Thoughts

Although Gil Pender is an extremely likeable character, he is also a bit spineless. The man is also a walking cliché. Despite being a successful screenwriter, Gil still thinks that he lacks something. While living in Hollywood, he fantasizes about moving to Paris. From what has been said so far, it seems like Gil doesn’t really know what he wants.

In addition, his morals are kind of questionable too. During his time travels, he falls for another woman (Adriana) while still engaged to another (Inez) in the present. Not only that, but he has the audacity to steal Inez’s earrings to gift to his lover. Some might say that Inez is insufferable, but her fiancé seems to be just as flawed as her.

Gil’s stay in Paris was in many ways a self-discovery journey for him. All the trips to the 1920s enabled him to learn a little more about himself. They also helped him figure out what he wanted in life. Towards the end, Gil becomes more confident about his life’s direction. As a matter of fact, the man comes to two important realizations. One, pursue his writing aspirations. Two, move to Paris.