Midnight in Paris

“Midnight in Paris” | a film review by Gary Chew

If you pay close attention, there are two clues that tip you off, right away, that this movie wasn’t shot in Dallas. First, there’s the title… and, second… and more obviously, the film was written and directed by Woody Allen. Remember him?

“Midnight in Paris” is about escaping one’s present and gorging on a previous era that, to you, was a much better time to live a life—or, at least, it seems so, depending on what era you’re living in.

That’s where Gil (Owen Wilson) finds himself. He and his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), are on an extended Paris holiday with Inez’ extremely well-off parents, John (Kurt Fuller) and Helen (Mimi Kennedy).

Gil doesn’t do badly, himself. He’s a Hollywood scriptwriter who (by implication) might churn out scripts for those movies like Mr. Wilson has been seen in a lot, over the years.

Could this be more evidence of the sharp sword of Woody Allen’s poetic justice at work?

And so, a vacation in “The City of Love” enhances Gil’s longing to bail on the rat race of Hollywood , for good, and move to Paris for good, and finish what he hopes will be his great novel. He has just a bit more polishing to do on it. But wait till you see who Gil gets to critique his tome. Whoops: ahead of myself I get.

Meanwhile, another clue presents itself.

As you can plainly infer, Owen Wilson is playing the Woody Allen part in “Midnight in Paris.” And he’s super doing it, even though he’s way more West Coast than any Alvy Singer-kind of struggling writer is—East Coast. That, and the fact Wilson doesn’t wear horn-rimmed glasses, doing the role, are the only things that make him seem a little un-Allenish.

On the other hand, what is so way Allenish, is that Maestro Woody has dressed his latest photoplay in the usual female eye candy he’s been know for over the decades. Rachel McAdams, clearly, makes a considerable contribution to that aspect of the film. But, she’s not the only lady to provide the visual confection for a fellow to scan.

Woody, you old dawg.

McAdams’ Inez is very well-acted, as well. She’s the beautiful, spoiled, young daughter of wealthy, Republican parents (Allen always works some of his humor along political lines, in case you’ve forgotten) who are quietly dismayed by Gil’s romantic, artistic bent, even though he works at turning-out American motion picture product for the masses in Southern California.

The stuff that Inez’s mom and dad want to do in Paris, along with Inez and her pals (a couple), Paul (Michael Sheen) and Carol (Nina Arianda), is not what Gil hankers for.

Gil hopes to suck up the history of the organic Paris and its denizens. And, as Woody would have it, that means: Gil enjoys taking late night strolls, solo, around what is surely one the most beautiful cities on this planet, and, maybe, any other planet.

The big joke in “Midnight in Paris” that’s underscored in a very cool way at the end of the film (with the help of a private detective) is that Gil does a little time-traveling, à la française, without benefit (thank goodness) of gimmicked scientific manipulation. Allen merely tasks his film editor to cut from one scene in 21st Century Paris to another showing characters of an earlier time living and partying in “La Ville-Lumière.”

Since the façade of Paris has changed so little over time, you hardly notice.

The time shifts occur without fanfare, and bring the moviegoer to slowly realize that Gil is no longer talking to the chiding, out-of-touch Inez or the anally pedantic Paul. Gil is in a classy bar, chatting it up with an American named Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston). The lady on Fitzgerald’s arm is a Southern belle, also from the States, named Zelda (Alison Pill).

Many such characters give wing to this really entertaining (PG-13) Allen tale. Would you believe: Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Salvadore Dali (Adrien Brody) and Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll)? Other celebrities who show up for smaller bits of the clever fun are: Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, Juan Belmonte, Alice B. Toklas, Picasso, Buñuel, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Degas. And don’t forget, Scott and Zelda know how to party, too. But, how come no Igor Stravinsky in all this “Another Time in Paris?”

Other important female roles are Adriana (Marion Cotillard), Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) and a museum guide played by Carla Bruni. Watch closely, though. You might get Ms. Seydoux and Ms. Bruni mixed in your mind. And, not surprisingly, Ms. Cotillard shines as she really turns Gil’s head.

Not to let old Woody Allen movie fans down, the maestro has included really appropriate vintage music on the soundtrack that makes you want to, for some reason, get up in the theatre and shout, “DJANGO REINHARDT”.

But, if I could, I do need to have a private chat with Woody. Mr. Allen, you’ve got to do something about the font you use on those credits of yours.

Copyright © 2011, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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