‘Midnight in Paris’ paints a charming portrait of Flint, Michigan before water crisis

The film highlights the trials and achievements of local kids before prom.

“Midnight in Paris” opens to shots of a high school. The year is 2012. Anti-bullying posters hang in the halls, students draw on their desks and the band practices a song. The audience is informed by a voiceover that these seemingly basic images aren’t often seen by people outside their community. One student says their town only gets media attention when something bad happens.

The dramatic irony is then made apparent as these kids are shown to be students at Flint Northern High in Flint, Michigan, speaking two years before the water crisis.

“Midnight in Paris” is not a film about how in one year their school will be closed, or how in two years their town will come to the national spotlight after being exposed to lead-filled drinking water. This is a film that wishes to show the inner lives and accomplishments of a set of high schoolers as they get ready for prom.

First-time directors James Blagden & Roni Moore deftly show the importance that attending prom has for these students. Some of them have dealt with poverty, some have lost friends, some have had children. But all of them have made it through high school and are on their way to graduation, and that really is something to celebrate.

The cast of characters portrayed is wide and diverse. There’s the prom queen whose dad embarrasses her, the girl whose date asks her if it’s all right if he brings along a second girl and the boy who shoots arrows from his second story window for target practice. But one of the film’s best characters is the community itself. Whether it’s hosting dress donations or gathering around the block to photograph the students in their finery, the local community is shown to be loyal and supportive.

Over the course of a brisk 75 minutes, the movie highlights some of the gossip that high school is known for. A running topic is who will have the fanciest ride to the prom. Some kids take limos, some rent party buses, and some even drive candy-colored low riders. None of them can compete with the girl who shows up in a horse-drawn carriage.

The movie is marked by its humorous moments. Though most parents fear their kids trying drugs and alcohol, one dad tells his daughter, “No smoking bud unless I get some.” One student checks his cellphone while grinding on his date and the wandering camera catches an event staffer sneaking a snack before realizing that they were caught on camera.

“Midnight in Paris” is not catching some dramatic event that will have your heart racing. The film’s biggest moment of tension is when one girl’s friend almost causes her to be late to prom. The directors wish to contemplate what these kids have gone through to show not only what they plan to do on the big day, but also for their future.

The movie is well paced for most of its runtime, but during the after party things start to drag a little. Even then there is humor to be found in one kid’s older friend, who teaches them how to drink rum while reminding them that no, 25 isn’t that old.

Edited by Janae McKenzie | jmckenzie@themaneater.com

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