Nothing That New in Midnight in Paris
- Friday, June 10, 2011
DVD Release Date: December 20, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: May 20, 2011 (limited); June 10, 2011 (wide)
Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual references, language, and smoking)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Run Time: 100 min.
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Nina Arianda, Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy
Woody Allen’s latest is a playfully absurd fantasy that isn’t quite as philosophical as the high-concept plot suggests it could be—coming from the introspective Allen, especially—but to simply be enchanting and delightful isn’t all bad either.
Midnight in Paris is a cute little fable that explores the misplaced romanticism of nostalgia, how we imagine a bygone era to be better than our own, and as such we miss the joys of the time we live in. The same could be said of Allen’s film canon, and while his latest certainly makes us more wistful for his classics, this is certainly one to enjoy and not burden unfairly by comparison.
Before establishing a narrative, the film opens with an extended travelogue of Paris (lusciously captured by cinematographer Darius Khondji, Chéri), taking us through the course of a day—morning, noon and night—in the world’s most romantic city. This leisurely montage is about more than just establishing location (one shot of the Eiffel Tower would do that); it creates a sense of place, and effectively so. By the end of it you want to go there, and are at least happy to be so even if vicariously through cinematic proxy.
Vacationing in Paris is Gil, a rich Hollywood screenwriter who’s angst-ridden about selling out and is looking to re-establish his literary bona fides by writing an important novel. He’s there with his fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams, Morning Glory), a beautiful blonde of Republican pedigree who's clearly marrying him for his success rather than his art. Her parents are in tow (daddy’s there on business, natch) and Gil’s tormented pursuit for artistic integrity is clearly at odds with their materialistic elitism (Allen has fun depicting these would-be in-laws with boorish pretension).
On their initial sightseeing excursion, the group runs into old acquaintances Paul and Carol who are on a tourist jaunt of their own. Paul (Michael Sheen, TRON: Legacy) is a cultured know-it-all who charms the women as much as he annoys Gil. He acts as guide through the city, snobbishly relaying historical minutia about every building, sculpture and painting, even challenging local experts when they correct him.
It’s enough to make Gil withdraw in frustration, roaming the Parisian streets on his own. Eventually at the stroke of midnight, a car straight out of the 1920s pulls up along side Gil, its raucous passengers inviting him to join them, and he does. When they arrive at the party of their destination, Gil realizes he hasn’t merely crossed the city but has literally traveled back in time.
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