I like Woody Allen movies. His neurosis drips through his screenplays onto the screen (mostly because he ends up playing the lead character). I find them humorous, often charming, and sometimes surprisingly dramatic (Match Point…anyone?). His latest outing might be my favorite of his films to date (granted I have not seen them all).
Midnight in Paris is a whimsical, romantic, fun film. It stars Owen Wilson (the Woody Allen character) as a screen writer who longs to write more meaningful fare and is working on a novel and trying to soak in every aspect of Paris. He is engaged to a woman (Rachel McAdams) who could not be less interested in his artistic pursuits, or Paris. They are in Paris with her parents and have extremely different ideas of what constitutes fun and tourism in the City of Love.
This is where the fun starts. I don’t want to ruin the major plot points, but if you’ve seen the trailer, or heard about the film at all, then you know Wilson’s character, Gil, undergoes some sort of time travel every night around midnight that transports him back to 1920’s Paris, where he encounters his nostalgia head on. The film is brilliant in its complete lack of interest in explaining this time travel. It doesn’t really matter how it happens, or that Gil is so eager to accept it as reality. What matters is that he finally sees the reality he has been dreaming of, the people he desires to model his life after, the beauty of “the Golden Age of Paris”.
In the present, these nightly escapes begin to take their tole, and his fiance and her family grow suspicious. The contrast between the two worlds is wonderful. Paris, still being beautiful and modern in the daylight, and enchanting and pristine in the dark. The plot takes us to its natural conclusion, yet still seems surprising.
Wilson is amazing. He was born to play the Woody Allen role. He can be neurotic with the best of them, yet has this likability about him that makes him not only tolerable, but enjoyable. You actually believe that his beautiful fiance could want to be around him. And as the world of the 1920’s unfolds before him, his wide eyed enjoyment is contagious. McAdams is also really great at being the woman we love to hate. Marion Cotillard is enchanting and elegant as always. The other actors hit the perfect notes, to make this a truly enjoyable ensemble. I won’t spoil the fun by telling you some of the characters they play, but Adrien Brody and Corey Stoll are particularly well cast. The First Lady of France also makes a nice cameo appearance.
If you don’t like to read, or don’t particularly care for Woody Allen, this might not be the film for you (pretentious, I know, but its still the truth).
This movie does what all great movies do. It transports you to a world you have always wanted to go to, and helps reveal a little nugget of truth along the way. It was truly a joyous affair. I cannot recommend it more highly.