Originally Reviewed – 7/19/2011
Woody Allen, as of late, has been hit or miss. From critical highs like Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona to box office bombs such as Whatever Works and Cassandra’s Dream, to describe Allen’s work as a writer / director in this decade could be kindly described as “uneven”. Although nobody can deny Allen’s skill in writing and humor, many have thought that he may be a relic of a time gone by, tossed aside by slicker, smarmier and more adult comedies. Maybe the days of wit and charm belong to bygone age, taken over by comedic cynicism and if so, Allen may just have been a victim of the passage of time. Well, I’m here to tell you there’s still room for Allen, charming witticisms and films that make you feel good with simple, sweet stories. The film that changed my mind is Midnight in Paris and not only is it the best Woody Allen film since 1994’s Bullets Over Broadway, it’s certain to find a place on my Top 10 films of 2011.
Midnight In Paris stars Owen Wilson who plays Gil, a disenfranchised Hollywood screenwriter who would like nothing more than ditching the corporate writing machine to elope to the enchanting City of Light. Finding himself tagging along a Parisian holiday sponsored by his fiancé’s family, Gil wanders the streets of the night-swept city looking for the mystery, romance and magic the French city is known for. Gil is a classic Allen character. Glib, unassuming and kindheartedly quirky, Wilson plays the part with his standard country boy charm and thanks to the expert direction of Mr. Allen, he translates on screen as completely charming daydreamer. While Gil has a standard Hollywood fiancée, played by Rachel McAdams, the third point of this Parisian love triangle Is native girl Adriana played in usual fantastic fashion by Marion Cotillard. Adriana, like much of the viewing audience, is caught up with the bumbling Gil and takes him on a series of late night adventures that not only changes his perspective of his current relationship yet changes his thoughts on nostalgia and its effect on living in the now.
Now, for those of you who have had your fill of the standard romantic comedy love triangle flicks, take heart. There’s much more to Midnight In Paris than a standard rom com, thanks to a delightful script by Mr. Allen. Not only do you find yourself drawn to the plight of Gil and the beauty of Adriana, you find yourself drawn to city itself. The best Allen films have always featured its city as a major character and Midnight is no exception. While there are moments where you think a caption reading, “Courtesy Of The Parisian Tourism Board” is going to flash on screen, the city is featured in a loving way, adding a dose of much needed character to a script that, aside from a brilliant twist thirty minutes in that sets the tone for the entire rest of the film, is fairly by the numbers. No worries, I won’t give away the twist but suffice to say, if you have any interest in the film at all, do not let a friend ruin it for you as doing so would considerably lessen the magic. My only quibble would be that the characters of Gil’s fiancé, mother and father aren’t nearly fleshed out enough to make them any more than foils to Gil’s nocturnal adventures, a small point when compared to the fun and complexity of the two main leads.
While I’m aware I’ve already used this word once in my review, the most succinct way I can describe Midnight In Paris is delightful. Although many film fans will cringe at the tidy way the film wraps up, I felt myself wholly satisfied that our main characters don’t fall off a cliff or die in a tragic bus accident. Sometimes, it’s good for things to turn out exactly like we want and in the case of Midnight In Paris, the strength of the characters make the easy ending more than acceptable. Fresh, charming and yes, a touch magical, Midnight In Paris re-cements Woody Allen as a relevant director, able to provide laughs, feeling and insight in equal measure. More than a standard date night movie, Midnight In Paris is an absolute joy to watch and is easily one of my favorite films of the year.
Score – 90%