MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
By Gary Murray
Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Running time 100 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Woody Allen will probably go down as the most prolific director since the silent era. He has consistently made one film a year for the last few decades. They run the gamut from comedy to drama, Mighty Aphrodite to Husbands and Wives. Almost all have focused on NYC but lately Mr. Allen has taken his camera abroad making Match Point and Vicky Christina Barcelona. In Midnight in Paris, he takes on the romance that is the City of Light.
The story of Midnight in Paris is of Gil (Owen Wilson). Gil is a successful Hollywood screenwriter who yearns to be something more. He is engaged to Inez (Rachel McAdams) a blonde Hollywood California Girl who just wants her man to be rich, if not happy. Gil just falls in love with the city, but he is infatuated with the Paris of the past. He dreams of meeting all the famous writers and artists that dominated the city in the 1920s. It almost becomes an obsession.
While in Paris, Gil and Inez run into Paul (Michael Sheen) a married intellectual who seems to know everything about everything. Where Inez finds him fascinating, Gil finds him pretentious. Gil just wants to work on his novel and Paul offers to read it, something Gil does not want, having no respect for Paul.
One night, Gil goes for a walk and at the stroke of midnight, a very old touring car appears out of the mist. Inside are Francis and Zelda. Later, he gets the last name, Fitzgerald. He has been transported back into the world that he dreams of. He rubs elbows with Dali and Hemmingway while listening to the piano of Cole Porter.
One woman who truly catches his eye is a young muse Adriana (Marion Cotillard). She is witty and charming, everything that his fiancé is not. The rest of Midnight in Paris is of the writer being turned in the right direction and finding out that the past is not all that is was.
Owen Wilson is basically playing Woody Allen in a much younger persona. There is still that classic Woody rhythm to the jokes, that solid stoic punch one expects from the writer Allen. He comes across as charming without being cutesy.
Rachel McAdams is just wasted in a small role. She represents all that is wrong with this world. The problem is that she is just too perfect to be flawed. A different actress would have made the role stronger.
Marion Cotillard just steals every scene in the film. She is a personification of the woman Gil craves as inspiration. In the end, he finds that she wants to change just as much as he does. She shows him the folly of living in the past.
The biggest character in the film is Paris itself. Woody, the film maker, makes the city sparkle with watery brilliance. He captures all that is beautiful and timeless about Paris. There is this glow about the framing that puts the City of Light in a blissful elegance.
To put this in context, my favorite Woody Allen film is Radio Days. I know that the majority of Woody fans like his ‘early funny’ films such as Sleeper or Bananas, I felt that Radio Days found the right beat between comedy and drama, mixing radio stories with growing up in the days of radio. There is this melancholy flow that few of his films do successfully. In so many ways his new film Midnight in Paris follows the same vein.
For fans of Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris is a definite must see. It is a mystical and magical without all the over the top mess that trends the summer movie season.