Okay. I’ll admit it. I have been angry with Woody Allen for YEARS and you know why. Every time he makes another brilliant movie, I forgive him a little bit more – and this time I think I am completely through being mad. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is a must see! Run, do not walk! The theme of the illusion that living in another place and time would solve all your problems certainly hits home for me. OF COURSE I WANT TO LIVE IN PARIS IN THE 1920S SURROUNDED BY ALL THE GREAT ARTISTS AND WRITERS WHO WERE THERE. Duh! And the performances are brilliant. But it is one performance, that of Owen Wilson, that I think attorneys will find most useful in practicing the law. He plays “The Woody Allen Character.”
Ah, the evolution of the Woody Allen Character. I fell in love with Woody Allen when I saw Bananas nine times. Brilliant, funny – an amazing writer and actor – I was in awe. His quirky smart comedy combined with his wonderful delivery never failed to amaze me. All nine times. Over the years his films have bowled me over as he has grown and changed as an artist. But those comedies – there is really nothing like them. Also, over the years, as he has aged he has taken to having another actor play “The Woody Allen Character” in his movies. In MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, it is Owen Wilson.
When I first started working with attorneys, I saw that young lawyers were all imitating their mentors. Playing their version of their own personal and deeply influential “The Woody Allen Character.” Sometimes it is funny and endearing. Kind of like when our kids were teenagers and I had to dress them up to go to traffic court in one of Alan’s sport coats and ties so that they could hang onto their drivers’ licenses. There is something really moving about a young attorney putting on the personality of his or her mentor. It never quite fits and you have to roll up the cuffs. Then as I got older and started looking at all attorneys, regardless of age, I saw that many have either a gigantic or a small bit of that imitation still at the heart of their trial personality. Sometimes it serves them well – almost like a pocket watch passed down from grandfather to grandson. Just a bit of an accessory. An homage. I am thinking now about an attorney who takes a small pause, looks at the jurors and smiles before she gives a really big point in her closings. I remember her mentor and she wears that gold watch with ease and pride. Really well integrated and coordinated.
But then I see attorneys who have really outgrown that old mentor – or at least their youthful version of that old mentor that is now completely “at odds” with their adult person. I am thinking now of an attorney who gives a big, bold and completely false gesture straight out of the Clarence Darrow playbook when wanting the jurors to know that he is disgusted with what opposing counsel said in closing. As if Clarence Darrow would have the same playbook in the 21st Century that he did in the 20th!
Do you have a mentor? Now…look at how Owen Wilson plays “The Woody Allen Role” in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. You absolutely know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the base and root of that character is Woody Allen. But – the heart and soul is Owen Wilson. Every expression of delight, heartache, longing, and surprise is his – but we sure do know that Woody Allen is an integral part of what he is doing as an actor.
A note about my relationship with Woody – or as I sometimes call it “when he betrayed us all.” You know when I fell out of love with him. I know that it is best to “trust the art and not the artist” but I really let his behavior get in my way. As my friend, Terry said, “He was her father. If he ever once said, ‘Listen to your mother!’ he was her father!” At any rate, I think I’ve fully forgiven him now. Or maybe I just want to see Paris in the 1920s nine times…
TIP: Is your mentor showing up in your delivery? And is it a good thing?