Leave it to Woody Allen to film not only a love letter to Paris with his latest film, but also a love letter to the Moveable Feast of the 1920s.The result is a feast for any moviegoer who loves his films, loves Paris, or loves the artists and writers who frequented the city during that era.
‘Midnight in Paris‘ opens with long, loving shots of the city’s stone walks, stately buildings, meandering rivers and romantic vistas. With a light bistro-jazz soundtrack playing in the background, we know right away this is classic Woody Allen.
Of course, there’s a Woody Allen character, because there’s always a Woody Allen character – a slightly neurotic, befuddled guy who’s surrounded by folks who don’t understand him. In this case, it’s Gil (Owen Wilson), a screenwriter who’s unhappy being a Hollywood hack who spews out drivel for the mainstream masses. So he’s working on a novel about a nostalgia shop owner. Gil feels like he’s on the cusp of a breakthrough in his career.
On a holiday in Paris with his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents John and Helen (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), Gil discovers that the city is magical beyond its surface beauty. Every night at midnight, he’s mysteriously transported back to the 1920s to mingle with his idols. Among them are Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Cole Porter (Yves Heck), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates).
Gil even finds a beautiful muse in Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who adores him, despite her passing romances with the likes of Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo). All of this is in stark contrast to Inez’s frustrated sighs whenever Gil talks about breaking free of his current life. She clearly doesn’t understand his fascination with Paris or nostalgia or a more enlightened existence.
We don’t question why this time-traveling portal opens up every night at midnight. We just go along for the ride. You can kind of see where all this is headed. Gil’s unhappy with his current life and seeking something better. But is that something better in the past, or can it be found in the present if he just opens his eyes to the possibilities?
‘Midnight in Paris‘ was the opening film at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and it’s the second time this honor was given to a Woody Allen film, the first being ‘[amazon_link id=”B00023P4JW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Hollywood Ending[/amazon_link]’ at the 2002 festival. Most people either love his films or don’t love them. I happen to love them, and count among my favorites ‘Annie Hall,’ ‘Manhattan’ and ‘Hannah and Her Sisters.’
I’m less familiar with his later work and need to catch up on films like ‘Whatever Works’ (2009), ‘Cassandra’s Dream’ (2007) and ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ (2010). A Woody Allen marathon is definitely in order.
Until then, I’ll bask in the magical glow of ‘Midnight in Paris,’ a delightful film that’s not only a stunning travelogue for the City of Light (it will be included in my next installment of Great Travel Movies), but also a nostalgic look back at the writers and artists of the 1920s. I love that Woody Allen’s locations are yet another character in his movies; he really makes full use of the gorgeous scenery in Paris.
And while I love Owen Wilson and think he plays a formidable neurotic, I hope Woody Allen stars in his next film, because it’s comforting to see his neuroses played out on screen. It makes us feel better about our own neuroses, and it looks like I’ll be rewarded with ‘Bop Decameron,’ a Rome-based comedy starring Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, and Jesse Eisenberg, due in theaters in 2012.
One note of interest: I happen to be two two degrees away from Corey Stoll, who plays Ernest Hemingway in ‘Midnight in Paris’ — check out this great piece about him in the Los Angeles Times.
‘Midnight in Paris’ is rated PG-13 for some sexual references and smoking.
More reviews of ‘Midnight in Paris’:
New York Observer, Rex Reed: “In a film so ripe with temptations for posturing, exaggeration and satirical overacting, nobody is anything less than natural, unpretentious and funny as hell.”
San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle: “A movie that’s loving and wistful and often hysterically funny.”
St. Petersburg Times, Steve Persall: “Allen eventually gets to the heart of this matter: the allure and danger of nostalgia.”
Movieline, Stephanie Zacharek: “The best Allen movie in 10 years, or maybe even close to 20 – is all about that idea: Reckoning with the past as a real place, but also worrying about the limits of nostalgia.”
Box Office Magazine, Pete Hammond: “Woody Allen’s time-travelling comedy Midnight In Paris is a valentine to Paris and an absolute delight.”