Midnight in Paris
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 16th October 2011
The much maligned, undeniably talented, arguably self-indulgent Woody Allen may have taken some critical brickbats in recent years, but he shows no signs of quitting. Turning 76 this year, he has mercifully stopped casting himself as the romantic lead but he continues to produce witty scripts and spirited direction with admirable dedication.
Midnight in Paris begins like Allen’s other cliched love letters to cities other than his own Big Apple (think of the Mini Coopers and double-decker buses of the ill-fated Match Point). Here he moves his attentions from London to the City of Love and, like a lover, he tries to woo you in the opening frames with all the classic sights of a beautiful and romantic idyll – not for Allen the banlieues with their riots and burnt-out car carcasses.
Dopey Owen Wilson takes the Allen role as Gil, an American on holiday in Paris with fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams, enjoyably uptight) and her interfering parents. Gil is a mediocre Hollywood screenwriter and a hopeless romantic, who takes a solo midnight stroll and climbs into a parallel universe that sees him drinking pastis with Hemingway (earnest in name and nature), getting editorial guidance from Gertrude Stein, and coming up with movie plots for Luis Bunuel. As improbable as this plot device is, the exercise in wish fulfilment is utterly charming and exciting in every way. With support from Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates and Adrien Brody, Midnight in Paris also serves as a valuable lesson about longing for the Golden Age. Perhaps it’s a subtle hint that we should let go of Annie Hall and embrace the director’s new direction.
Allen is back on form with this latest example of pure, cinematic entertainment. As much as you may try to resist, he’ll charm you anyway.