Monday, January 23, 2012

Midnight in Paris

Owen Wilson is Gil visiting the 1920s with Corey Stall as Ernest Hemingway and Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris

**** out of ****

I'm a Woody Allen fan. Maybe you're not but you have to appreciate that this is a guy who makes a movie a year. Every now and then you get one that is weak or semi-pretentious and every now and then you get one that is entertaining and brilliant.

Here's an episode of AV Talk where they discuss this film and recent Allen films.
Midnight in Paris is a movie that Allen has always needed to make because he finally addresses and questions his obvious contempt for the modern world. 

This is his nostalgia-themed film. It's a comedy about a writer (Owen Wilson) who thinks the ideal time and place for him would be the nineteen twenties in Paris. This was a time when all his artistic heroes frequented the clubs and bars discussing their visions and producing them. While visiting Paris with his not-so-nostalgic girlfriend (A bitchy Rachel McAdams) and her America-centric rich parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), he takes some time out to wander the streets at midnight where his wish comes true. A twenties-era vehicle filled with partying Parisians picks him up and take him back in time to the twenties for the night. Our protagonist finds joy and inspiration from this midnight visit and decides to make this trip through time every night where he meets people like Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stall), Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), and many others.

Michael Sheen is a genius, as always, playing a pretentious twenty-first century art enthusiast who seems like a faint echo of the man in the movie line from Annie Hall.

On one of his trips he falls for a woman who was one of Picasso's mistresses played by the lovely Marion Cotillard. Our character's love interest from another time has characteristics that give this escapist surreal comedy weight as he learns of her nostalgia for the early 1900s and lack of contentment living in the twenties. 

Allen is predictably clever enough to avoid any sci-fi or fantasy explanations for why the time travel happens in this story. Like Groundhog Day, or Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo, the surreal plot needs no justification. We are only interested in the circumstances it creates.

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