Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen finds new city to salivate over

I’ve figured out the Woody Allen formula (the contemporary version). Whenever he makes a film that is a thinly-veiled autobiographical version about himself, it flops. Just look at Whatever Works, the film starring Larry David in the Allen role that spent its hour and a half running time arguing it’s okay to romance a girl forty years your junior. Subtle, Woody.

But those are his flops. His recent successes can all be pinpointed to one thing – falling in love with a location, rather than a person. The 2005 film Match Point was Woody’s first foray into London and it reignited his career. Since then, he’s directed love letters to Barcelona (Vicky Christina Barcelona) and now in his latest, Paris.

Owen Wilson plays Gil, a screenwriter visiting Paris with his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams, channeling her role from Mean Girls) and her parents (Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy). Disillusioned by Hollywood, Gil is working on writing his first novel and finds the city to be inspirational. Meanwhile, Inez’s parents are xenophobes who prefer to immerse themselves in American cuisine and films rather than appreciate anything Paris has to offer. Amidst the philistinism of his fiancee’s parents to his antagonism of Paul (Michael Sheen), a know-it-all friend of Inez’s, Gil wanders the streets alone late one night and finds himself transported back to his dream era in Paris: the 1920s.

The sequences where Gil visits the past are filled with colourful historical figures that the audience is expected to be at least cognizant of – especially because who they are isn’t explained as their scenes are mostly composed of fleeting cameos that last only a scene or two (except for a few names that most should recognize from high school English classes – Hemingway and Fitzgerald). If the names Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter, Zelda Fitzgerald, or T.S. Eliot mean nothing to you, I would recommend some quick Google searches before the movie. While ignorance of these characters won’t hamper the enjoyment of the film, at least a passing knowledge of their histories will increase the entertainment ten-fold as Allen makes many references and in-jokes about them.

Midnight in Paris is a beautiful, dreamy foray into the City of Lights that is all too brief. Under the guise of an hour and a half long French tourist board advertisement, the film manages to sneak some important things to say about life into the mix. As long as Woody sticks to salivating over cities rather than thin dramatic justifications of his personal life, I’ll be watching.

Grade: A-  


One Response to Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen finds new city to salivate over

  1. Julia turnbull says:

    I thought your review of this film was spot on. Glad you enjoyed the movie. I absolutely loved it.

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