Midnight in Paris

A successful screenwriter and his fiancée take a vacation in Paris with her parents and while there, he embarks on a magical journey. The trip is an intoxicating one, a love letter to “The City of Light” during the 1920s. The adventure is historical filled with personalities of art and literature. But a more detailed discussion of who and what he meets would detract from the surprise. For that you’ll just have to watch.

Midnight in Paris displays many of the touchstones that typify a Woody Allen production. He’s always had an affection for the music of the Jazz Age, for example, but who knew he could capture its period with such joie de vivre? His obsession with Europe continues as he has set virtually all of his productions there since 2005’s Match Point. The film begins with an opening montage of beautiful shots of Paris. The images are charming and quaint. They quickly set the mood. His passion with the city becomes our passion. Not only are we immediately intrigued to find out what happens next, we want to purchase plane tickets and fly there right after leaving the theater.

Owen Wilson plays Gil, a Hollywood hack screenwriter tired of being a sellout. He wants to write, I mean really write great literature that will stand the test of time. The story comparison that actor Owen Wilson of utterly hackneyed rubbish like You, Me and Dupree and Drillbit Taylor is now in a sophisticated, well written romantic comedy, is not lost on this reviewer. The dramatic parallels between the actor and the role he is playing are just one of the things that make him so effective in this part. Owen Wilson as Woody Allen’s alter ego inhabits the lead so perfectly, you wonder why he hasn’t appeared in one of the director’s pictures until now. Perhaps Wilson’s involvement in Wes Anderson movies has honed his talent. He arguably gives the best performance. That’s saying a lot because he’s surrounded by an absolutely stellar cast of memorable characters. Marion Cotillard is radiant as Adrianna a mistress and muse of Picasso’s who catches Gil’s eye. Rachel McAdams is given the difficult task of portraying the shrewish fiancée, but she approaches the part tongue-in-cheek and exploits the nastiness of her character to comedic effect.

So much of the script is based on the unadulterated joy of nostalgia, a sentimental yearning for a previous time period. It intelligently explores the concept from the outlook of someone who shares the point of view while also admitting the inherent pitfalls of the feeling. Our tendency to romanticize the past is explored with insight. Using humor and witty dialogue, the story shares similarities with Play It Again, Sam and The Purple Rose of Cairo , classic pictures of his that twist reality. These are some pretty big shoes to fill. Midnight in Paris isn’t quite up to those classics, but it is his warmest, most sweetly innocent film in decades.

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8 Responses to “Midnight in Paris”

  1. Thanks for the review, Mark. You managed to get me even more excited about this film! I’m dying to watch this and hope for my sake it opens here in Mexico soon. The combination of a great cast, Woody Allen behind the lens, Paris and jazz sounds incredibly tempting.

  2. What a well written review Mark. I don’t know what else to add. I agree with all you said. I loved this movie. Wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

  3. Ramon Lopretti Says:

    Truly one of the best Woody Allen films in a long time. I agree with you from the onset how the film grabs you and takes you in a timeless journey in time through the streets of Paris. And, yes, I have to admit, I do feel like purchasing a ticket to Paris and run into Gabrielle. This movie is a keeper, and I will add it to my favorites for 2011.

  4. magnolia12883 Says:

    Not a “great” film or “classic” in the traditional sense, but as modern Woody Allen goes it doesn’t get much better than this… Just a delight from start to finish – and that Bunuel/EXTERMINATING ANGEL joke in the middle to end (“I had an idea for a movie for you…”) is a gem! 🙂

  5. Fearghas Shaytan-Henshaw Says:

    Haven’t seen the film yet, so I can’t debate or agree on any of your points. But I suspect that when I see the film, I will (for the most part) find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with you – but I will probably give the film a five star rating.

  6. As you say, this is Paris through golden filters — one for the (camera’s) eye, but also one for the brain, an intriguing plot premise, and, I’m happy to add, fewer of Woody’s trademark vulgarities than usual. So, could anybody ask for more? I could. The movie was good enough to make me wish it had been a little bit better.

    I certainly had a different reaction to the characters. I found Owen Wilson’s impersonation so mannered I would’ve taken Hugh Grant as a relief; the fiance and her crowd could have been funny if they’d been allowed to be more than setups; and the bailout romance came across as an afterthought. More to the point were lost plot opportunities. Why not forget the historical cliches and round out a few of the celebrities enough to make us think the protagonist could’ve absorbed things from them that’d make him a better writer? Portraying the past less conventionally would have added opportunities for humor and given Woody’s surrogate a means to progress from the dopey hero-worship he’s obviously a captive of to a recognition of the kind of people who actually inhabit an era that turns out to be famous.

    On balance though, I think we’re pretty much in agreement. “Purple Rose of Cairo”? uh-uh, but well worth seeing.

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