MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Review

I am by no means a big fan of Woody Allen films. In fact, most of the time I try to avoid them due to the stigma they have attached to them lately that is due to the filmmaker getting more attention and not necessarily the particular film he has produced that year. Sure, I will check out the ones that seem more highly praised than others. I saw "Match Point" and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" as well as the under rated "Cassandra's Dream" but to mess with more recent Allen farces like "Scoop" or "You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger" seem like they might be somewhat of a waste of time. This may be making me out to sound a little ignorant to the ways and the reasons Allen is so beloved as a filmmaker but trust me, I have seen and do understand the significance of his earlier classics like "Manhattan" and most notably "Annie Hall". I have enjoyed his sense of humor and his simplicity with which he not only tells a story but captures it on film. It is maybe the most intriguing thing about his latest, "Midnight in Paris". I fell in love with the film pretty quickly and not just because of Mr. Allen's incredibly fun and creative script, but also because Owen Wilson is pitch perfect as our main character and delivers one of the best performances his career will likely ever see.

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams take in Paris
with a kiss...
There is nothing outlandish or incredibly defining about Wilson's Gil except for the fact he has this child-like fascination with the city of lights. As a writer of Hollywood screenplays he feels more of a hack than an authentic literary figure and in going along with his fiancees parents on a trip to Paris Gil becomes enthralled with the city or at least the idea of all the magic and the history with all the great writers it possesses. To take such an alluring idea; the thought or opportunity to get to mingle with your idols in the era you wish you could have been alive during is something we have all no doubt considered. For Gil, Paris in the 1920's is a period and a place of artistic freedom, the center of the world for anyone wanting to do anything associated with the arts. Though it may be disillusioned and the characters may be somewhat more creations of myth rather than what they were really like (Hemingway especially) it doesn't matter because this is How Gil sees it, this is what he wants it to have been like and we relish every sweet minute Gil gets to interact with historical figures from the past that feed his need to be a part of something bigger. Allen also sprinkles in a few stars that push Gil to want to get away from his day to day. A perfectly cast Michael Sheen plays the intellectual know-it-all friend of Gil's fiancee who is in turn played by the lovely Rachel McAdams but as nice as it is to see Wilson re-teaming with his "Wedding Crashers" co-star McAdams character seems far to mean and materialistic to convince us that Gil would have ever fallen for her in the first place. What we do buy into though is the sparks that fly between Wilson and Marion Cotillard who has slowly been paving her way as the most credible actress in Hollywood. Here, she plays the mistress of a few famous painters before stumbling upon Gil a man that seems foreign to her and ultimately gives him the insight to realize what Allen is truly trying to get across with his film.

...and later he dances with the lovely Marion Cotillard.
And though Allen, the writer, tries to explore something bigger rather than just giving the idea a bit of fun it never really factors in and the lesson we get from it at the end feels tacked on rather than a developed piece of theme. Even though the thought of our dream decade not being all we envision it to be and that to each decade the one before it was better and held much more promise it is up to each individual to shape the world we live in presently to become a desired decade of the future. There isn't really a more simple way to put that idea into words, but like I said that isn't what matters about "Midnight in Paris" what matters is simply how enjoyable this movie is to watch and discover. Because what is really special about this film is not the idea of trying to learn something from it or attempting to find some philosophical reasoning for the way life works, but instead it is a celebration of the genius and art that came before our time. It is a culmination of wonder and joy, the simple thought of getting to witness Fitzgerald and Hemingway exchange dialogue is enough to send a grin straight to my face, but getting to actually see this occur through the word of a cherished director and the acting of accomplished players is a treat I want to experience over and over again.

Wilson, McAdams, Michael Sheen, and Nina Arianda all
share a drink in Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris".
"Midnight in Paris" is both a light comical film that I would rank as one of the top movies of the year so far and a meditation on our own generation and how we pull from and re-invent through what we have learned from the past. That there is a longing to be part of what created or what defined the genre or the area you aspire to be a part of is understandable, but that there is always room for innovation and expansion is something that can never cease to exist. Director Allen treats this subject carefully, letting us experience the joy Gil gets from going out every night and hanging with the masters of his craft, but Allen also lets it be known that it can't go on forever and that too much of a good thing will soon lose its spark and thus become the same mundane flow of life you felt trapped in before. It is easy to love "Midnight in Paris" but it is not hard to dislike the conclusion that the promised joy ultimately comes to offer because we don't want to believe that our minds own perception of something might be completely off.