One need not have majored in literature to love Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” but it couldn’t hurt. Once again he demonstrates a genius for intellectually tickling the funny bone as no other director can.
A savvy and surprising move to cast Owen Wilson in the lead is a huge part of the film’s unwavering appeal. His character, Gil, has found success as a Hollywood screenwriter but dreams of writing a great novel. While vacationing in Paris with his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her parents, Gil falls in love with the city and its history of inspiring great artists. He has a passion to live and work there while the shallow and condescending Inez adamantly refuses to do so.
One night, as Gil wanders the streets alone, a vintage limousine pulls up and whisks him off to a glamorous party. He soon finds he’s been transported back in time to the Jazz Age and is surrounded by legendary guests. They include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein and Luis Bunuel, just to name a few. Gil is especially smitten by Picasso’s lover, Adriana (Marion Cotillard), and returns each night thereafter.
“Midnight in Paris” is totally signature Woody Allen. There’s the surrogate Woody (Wilson), gobs of glib repartee, ruminations on the human condition and, of course, the carnal cravings. Often his shooting locales become characters in themselves. The City of Light has never looked so brilliant as Allen pays homage to Paris through his lens.
Casting has always been a coup for Allen, and he exceeds all expectations in this titillating time traveler. Kathy Bates’ portrayal of Gertrude Stein is spot on — just as you’d imagine her. And it was refreshingly nice to see Oscar-winner Adrien Brody in something other than a beer commercial. His short but hilarious moments as Salvador Dali are unforgettable. I could go on: Michael Sheen, Carla Bruni ...
The king of clever always leaves his audience with the debatable dilemma. In “Midnight in Paris,” it’s all about illusions. Is the present always dull when compared to the past? Allen’s answer is that the present is unsatisfying because life is. Personally, I don’t believe Allen fully subscribes to that particular notion.
After all, how could he create a work of art the caliber of “Midnight in Paris?” It celebrates life, c’est magnifique!