Friday, April 20, 2012

Midnight in Paris

Directed by Woody Allen.
2011. Rated PG-13, 94 minutes.
Owen Wilson
Rachel McAdams
Marion Cotillard

Kathy Bates
Michael Sheen
Carla Bruni
Adrien Brody
Kurt Fuller
Mimi Kennedy
Tom Hiddleston
Corey Stoll

Lea Seydoux

Gil Pender (Wilson) is a successful Hollywood screenwriter who wants to break into legitimate literature. To that end, he’s working on a novel. He’s also on vacation in Paris with his fiancé Inez (McAdams) and her parents. We immediately learn that he longs to have been alive and in the city during the 1920s when many of the greatest artists of all time roamed its streets. His days are spent with Inez around her friends and family. More often than not this includes Paul (Sheen), an insufferable know-it-all. In an effort to get away from Paul’s incessant pontification, Gil finds himself taking late night walks alone. It just so happens that every night at midnight he’s scooped up by some people in this movie’s version of a DeLorean and they take him to precisely where he wants to be: Paris in the 1920s. Shortly, he’s face to face with F. Scott Fitzgerald (Hiddleston) and Ernest Hemingway (a particularly good Stoll). He get his manuscript read by Gertrude Stein (Bates). He also gets acquainted with a number of others such as Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo) and Bunuel (Adrien de Van). Each morning he’s back in the present longing to get back to the past. Yes, this is a movie about his romantic view of a particular city but also about traditional romance, too. Is Inez really right for him? Perhaps it’s Picasso’s on-again, off-again mistress Adrianna (Cotillard). After all, the two take a shine to each other.

Midnight in Paris gets points for being an atypical romantic comedy. The genre is filled with tales of boy meets girl that proceed through a succession of predictable ups and downs. They only differentiate themselves by the preposterousness of their situations. Seriously speaking, what could be more preposterous than a time traveling aspiring novelist meeting his long deceased heroes and possibly falling in love with their women? The difference is those other movies pass themselves off as only slight exaggerations of the type of romance we’re all sure to experience when we meet that special someone when in truth they’re farcical, at best. This film understands its place. It knows it is presenting us with impossible events and runs with it. Through characters other than Gil, it lets us know it is keenly aware how crazy this whole thing is.

The writer and director is none other than Woody Allen. As proof, the movie contains many of his usual touches. Gil is fairly similar to most of Allen’s protagonists: smart, quirky and a bit of a loner. He’s probably not as self-deprecating as he might’ve been had Allen played the character himself, though. The women are flighty, yet seem to have a keen understanding of our hero. Like the director’s best, MiP is charmingly whimsical. Unfortunately, it relies too heavily on its premise. It seems to think that transporting us back and forth in time is enough to wow us. It often settles for cute instead of going for all-out funny. Sure, there are laughs to be had. However, they’re spaced at intervals too large. Near the end, things get a bit convoluted as a third era is awkwardly introduced. Still, MiP does lots of things well. It is a good Woody Allen movie, just not a great one.

MY SCORE: 7/10

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