Midnight in Paris
Directed by: Woody Allen Cast: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates Running Time: 1 hr 28 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 27, 2011
PLOT: At the stroke of midnight, a struggling novelist in 2010 is strangely carried off by a car to the 1920's, where he hangs out with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali (Brody) and the mistress of Pablo Picasso (Cotillard).
WHO'S IT FOR?: Any romantic, urban or suburban, can be swept up by the charm of Woody Allen’s presentation of Paris. This film could be especially delightful for those who enjoy their literature, or in general, their famous artists. The more that one is aware of the works of artists like Hemingway, Bunuel, or even Cole Porter, the more likely you are to take part in the movie’s magic and big laughs.
EXPECTATIONS: The reception for this film from Cannes Film Festival was strikingly positive. Did it win audiences over with humor, or heart? Perhaps a mix of both, with a few doses of death thrown in?
Owen Wilson as Gil: Whether we could have predicted it or not, Wilson is quite a natural in what feels like a loosely-based Woody surrogate role (but this progressively becomes not the case). Wilson's excitement about what's around him translates well to the audience, and his lack of upfront neuroses is relatively refreshing. With the history of Paris standing as the mistress he sneaks away to enjoy every night, Wilson is a charming fellow tourist into the city's great legacy. Score: 7
Rachel McAdams as Inez: On the other side of the tourism coin is someone like Inez, a person who bought into the chic images of a Paris, but not one who cares to enjoy "the City of Lights" for its humble beauty (or even its rain). Though her character is rather simple, McAdams does well with the moments she has, and makes for an amusing ugly caricature of the type of people Allen would probably prefer to keep out of Paris. Score: 6
Rest of Cast: Midnight in Paris is full of big name actors playing bit parts, each of them leaving a certain mark on the movie's allure. A clean cut Michael Sheen stands as a hilarious weapon of Woody's crusade against faux-intellectuals whose pedantic nature precedes them. Adrien Brody's impersonation of Salvador Dali is equally kooky and delightful, and Kathy Bates is a nice surprise. Midway through the film, Allen falls in love with Cotillard's face, and just like his contagious love for Paris, so do we. Score: 8
TALKING: With the neuroses of its characters toned down more notably compared to previous Allen projects, the script rarely has everyone stumbling over their words. Instead, the dialogue is crisp, with Allen basking in his opportunity to name-drop a whole slew of famous artists, for the sake of making the period more enchanting, and also the gamut of a good laugh. Score: 7
SIGHTS: With its bright-eyed enamor with all corners of the city, Midnight in Paris always lights its interiors and exteriors (of all periods) with a certain golden glow. Moments of conversation are covered with subtle long takes that also make photographic use of locations like Versailles. Midnight in Paris even begins with an entrancing montage that captures the city at all times of the day, with the beauty of Paris presented by the camera’s own exquisite framing. Score: 8
SOUNDS: Keeping both to the period and to the general musical library of Woody Allen, the Midnight in Paris soundtrack often hums along to notable tunes by the likes of Cole Porter and Django Reinhardt. In this case, tunes by Porter have an even more direct relationship with the material, as the song is actually played by someone acting as Porter. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: There are many laughs in the film, but the biggest moment(s) might be whenever Wilson and Sheen are interacting through various "educational" moments.
ENDING: Paris is most romantic when it rains.
QUESTIONS: Where can I find the time portal in New York City, so that I can give 1970’s Woody the idea for Crimes and Misdemeanors?
REWATCHABILITY: It’s uncertain whether the magic would be as strong in a second viewing, but it’s certainly an enjoyable film with a lightness that could be visited with ease.
Midnight in Paris is a pleasing little gift from a filmmaker whose lighter work can be just as fulfilling as his heavier stories. Here, the neuroses of characters are relatively tranquil, and the general magic of nostalgia is at the forefront. A large chunk of Midnight's thrill is its presentation in showing artists that we have forgotten - even if the movie likes to slow itself down a bit in order to make these references, and for Allen to toy with the existence of art's most important characters. Packing his sweet short story with quaint poetic irony and purely beautiful imagery, Allen succeeds in showing his audience of temporary tourists that Paris is indeed a city where history's finest artists can create some of their most inspired work.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10