Midnight in Paris
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Over the past few years, every time Woody Allen released a new film, you were likely to hear comments like “what’s happened to Woody Allen.” His films kept coming on a regular basis, but for the most part, weren’t very good. It got to the point that the name Woody Allen on a film was enough to discourage attendance. While any filmmaker can have fallow periods, Allen’s was stretching into some kind of record.
I’m pleased to report that Woody Allen has his mojo back. The Woody Allen we extol for Annie Hall, Manhattan, and The Purple Rose of Cairo, seems to have found new inspiration in the bewitching city of Paris. Midnight in Paris is the tale of a Woody Allen-ish character named Gil, who is a very successful screenwriter in Hollywood. Gil churns out box office hits, which he even says aren’t very good, but longs to fulfill his dream of writing the “Great American Novel.” Gil finds himself in Paris on vacation with his self-centered fiancée and her snarky, unpleasant parents, whom they are accompanying on a business trip.
While wandering alone in the city late at night, Gil has an experience that changes many things for him. This experience continues for several nights in succession, always alone, and at midnight. Is it real? Is it a dream? Or is it something more. What happens to Gil is the heart and soul of the story, and to reveal more of the plot before you get to see the movie would be criminal. In fact, I urge you to not read up on Midnight in Paris. Just go see it and have an experience with no preconceived notions.
The dialogue and directorial touches of the classic Woody Allen are all there, including one-liners, comments about today’s world and society, and intellectual musings as well. Owen Wilson plays Allen’s on-screen alter ego. Granted, Wilson had had his share of bad movies and annoying characters in the past, but here he gives a career-best performance as the writer searching for his inner self, as well as true happiness. And one of the many nifty things about Midnight in Paris is that we feel we are with him on this journey of discovery.
His fiancée is played by Rachel McAdams, who’s been working a lot lately in films such as Sherlock Holmes and Morning Glory. She’s up to the task of making you wonder “why is he with her, she’s such a…” well, you get the idea.
Mostly unknown actors, in a variety of characterizations, superbly handle other roles. But Allen also brings in some Oscar-winning ringers to add weight to the cast: Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates, and Marion Cotilliard, all add immensely to Gil’s Parisian epiphany. And Allen also makes the most of his love for music by scoring the film with jazz, classical, and period pop songs that are perfectly in tune with the feel of the film.
Over the past few years, people have also wondered what happened to the “romantic comedy” genre. Many of the films have been shrill, unfunny, unromantic drek. Along with Woody Allen, the romantic comedy genre is back. Midnight in Paris is romantic, funny, and like the city itself, completely bewitching. At the conclusion of the film, you’ll likely find yourself sitting there with a huge grin on your face, and a new, or reinvigorated appreciation for both Woody Allen and Owen Wilson.
Midnight in Paris is, so far, the very best film I’ve seen all year.
The PG-13 rated Midnight in Paris is now showing at the Esquire, AMC Newport, and Regal Deerfield theatres, and the Rave Cinemas in Milford and West Chester.