Midnight in Paris

Ok, so here we go with my 3rd attempt at a movie review, I still think it is a bit wordy and descriptive, but hey ho, this is a learning curve.  So here is my review of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

  • Director – Woody Allen
  • Starring – Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen and Carla Bruni
  • Writer – Woody Allen
  • Length -100 mins
  • Year – 2011

Woody Allen’s recent tour of Europe has taken in London (Match Point) and Barcelona (Vicky Christina Barcelona), producing two of his finest films for some time.  The third stop on the European tour is Paris, with the wonderful Midnight in Paris.  Will it be third time lucky? It is, very much indeed.

Right from the beginning of the film we can see the affection that Allen holds for Paris.  The opening scenes are full of picture postcard moments depicting every day Parisian life and almost all of Allen’s lead roles spend the film espousing the joys of living in the city of lights.  There are of course some dissenting voices, but these are lost amongst the chorus.  A word of warning; even if you have been to Paris 20 times, or never visited at all, this film will make you want to go back and soon.

Allen’s lead Paris champion is Owen Wilson who plays Gil, a commercially successful, but clearly disillusioned Hollywood script writer/doctor who before selling his literary soul to Hollywood, spent time in Paris trying to write his first novel.  Now he is back and wishing he had never left, but this time he is accompanied by his materialistic wife to be Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her overbearing parents(Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy).

As soon as Gil touches down in Paris, his love affair is rekindled.  He is a true romantic at heart, who wants nothing more than to walk the streets, sit in the cafes and dream of living in Paris in the 1920s, a time he perceives as the Parisian golden years.  Paris is the place Gil has decided he needs to be to make the break from Hollywood and finish his book.  Inez, clearly horrified at this thought finds solace in a pretentious American couple Paul (wonderfully played by Michael Sheen) a cringe-worthy pseudo-intellectual in Paris for a conference and his wife Carol (Nina Arianda).  Paul whips Inez and Gil of on a whirlwind tour of Paris, primarily it appears to allow Paul to spout intellectual rubbish in a bid to impress Inez, until put firmly in his place by a museum guide played delightfully by Carla Bruni.

Gil can take it no more and after a red wine fuelled dinner declines the invitation to go dancing preferring to walk back to the hotel.  After losing his way, Gil is picked up by a mysterious car that appears at midnight, and transported back to Paris in 1920s.  Over a series of nights, Gil gets to experience what he has so long desired, that is Paris in the roaring 20s.  He also picks up some literary inspiration and critiquing from none other than F Scott Fitzgerald (Todd Hiddleston), Earnest Hemmingway (Corey Stoll), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) and experiences romantic distraction from the majestic Marion Cottiard as Adrianda, a model and girlfriend to the stars, who simply and elegantly steals every scene that she is in.

Wilson as Gil, displays a deft and charming touch, not often seen in his career to date.  He channels, rather than imitates, Allen’s quirkiness and seems to spend the entire film in a slightly confused but happy state; seemingly quite content to sit back and let Paris roar over him.  His scenes with Gottiard are quite superb and the highlight of the film.  The supporting cast all play their characters with energy and aplomb; how historically accurate they are I do not know, but boy are they watchable.

Allen’s screenplay is fully deserving of its Oscar triumph, delivering crisp, refreshing dialogue which manages to stay light and airy, without getting dragged down into literary swampness.  Allen throws in a lot of historical and literary references, which (thankfully) you do not need a degree in English Lit to follow.   Allen does ask you to take a few liberties and not to question certain aspects of the story, the time travel for instance, but when the story is as engrossing as this one, the audience will be happy to just sit back and accept what is being shown.

This is a film of many love stories, straddling different eras, time zones and perceptions.  The film ultimately raises the question of what are the benefits of looking back, compared to focusing on the future.  This can equally be applied to Allen’s career.  We seem to spend an awful lot of time looking at his back catalogue and reminiscing over Annie Hall, Manhattan and such like; maybe we should be concentrating on what he is doing now, as it is pretty darn good.

★★★★

Review by Will Malone
 
If you liked Midnight in Paris, then try 50/50