Midnight In Paris Review
Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen’s latest offering, and has been described as charming more times (including by me) than I care to remember. However, if it can crack even my cynical centre, it clearly has something going for it. Fortunately, the humour injected into the script makes up for some character shortcomings and delivers a really enjoyable film.
Owen Wilson takes the part of Gil (or Woody Allen…let’s not skirt here), a “Hollywood hack” and frustrated novelist in love with the romanticism of Paris. Sadly, that view isn’t shared by his fiancé (Rachel McAdams) or her Tea Party-sympathising parents. When on a walk one evening, he gets picked up in an old car and is somehow transported back to 1920s Paris to hob-knob with all his literary and artistic idols. In addition, he finds himself drawn to Adriana (Marion Cotillard), a young fashion student from this time-shifted world.
Cue the references to the artistic giants of the time, and what actually makes the film work. Even if you don’t know who the various figures Gil gets to meet, and be inspired by, are (and I have no doubt I missed a few), Allen’s script creates laughs despite it. Even if you are (somehow) not aware of Salvador Dalí, for instance, the lunatic ramblings in his short portrayal should raise a grin at the very least. Although I did roll my eyes a little at the 92,618th name drop, they never came without a purpose or joke quickly following behind. As a result, this roll call of characters never feels particularly gratuitous. The past setting is the one in which the film comes alive and is at its most enjoyable – given the central theme of the film deals with the relevancy of nostalgia, however, I find this imbalance a little unfortunate.
“Midnight in Paris does have its problems, and I’m not sure why it has been met with such universal praise, but the film delivers enough charm and humour to paper over the cracks”
When back in present-day Paris, most of the characters (particularly Rachel McAdam’s incredibly irritating Inez) are ignorant or xenophobic annoyances. Some of this is necessary for the narrative and delivers some decent jokes through Inez’s parents, but could have delivered more. Michael Sheen’s pedantic character (the sort of man who prefixes everything with “If I’m not mistaken…”) is incredibly annoying, but Sheen plays him perfectly such that, whilst we hate him, we could watch him all day. The other present-day characters are not like this at all.
Midnight in Paris does have its problems, and I’m not sure why it has been met with such universal praise, but the film delivers enough charm and humour to paper over the cracks. Owen Wilson gives his best performance in a while, and the supporting cast in the 1920s do much to keep the film enjoyable and humorous. Given the last Woody Allen film I saw was the completely forgettable Whatever Works, it’s good to see a film with that certain je ne sais quoi again.
Other stuff: Midnight in Paris was discussed on the excellent Cambridge 105FM show Bums on Seats, and I was part of the discussion. The entirety of that week’s show was very interesting, but for those interested in the Midnight in Paris reviews, they are covered at the beginning.