Aug 21, 2011

Review: Midnight in Paris

Director: Woody Allen
Release Date: 20 October 2011
Rating: TBC
Runtime: 94 mins

It's just as well Woody Allen's latest film opened the Festival de Cannes 2011—what a feel-good farce to kick off a festival that is renowned for excellent cinema, but usually of a more serious nature. With Midnight in Paris, Allen makes a return to form, transplanting otherworldly elements into everyday life to both charm us and stretch our imaginations.

Gil (Owen Wilson) is a successful American screenwriter who is slugging through the draft of his first novel. He and Fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), are tagging along on a business trip to Paris with her parents; Gil writes while Inez and her mother plan the wedding to end them all (this includes men, if you ask us).

The opening montage of Parisian cafes, side streets, and waifs riding bikes while French concertina music plays is perfect in setting up the romantic comedy angle, but actually leads the viewer to believe we're in for something more Hollywood than is the reality.

The earth spins back on its axis after a night out with Inez's insufferable wine-sniffing friends, Paul (Michael Sheen) and Carol (Nina Arianda). Gil wanders off, slightly tipsy, to take the scenic route home and ends up lost as the clock strikes midnight and he is whisked off by a band of strangers from the 1920s.

Here, you can see Allen's wonderful sense of humour and flight of fancy come into play: Gil spends time with his literary heroes during his favourite Parisian period and gets to know its characters and chameleons as if they had been in his life forever. He is enchanted by 1920s patroness of the arts—to put it kindly—Adriana (Marion Cotillard) and begins to imagine a new life outside Inez, her sniffy friends, her money-lust and general unpleasantness. All due credit to McAdams for delivering a thoroughly nasty, yet uncomplicatedly boring anti-heroine in Inez: an achievement for an actress usually so likeable and radiant in every role she takes on.

Allen uses his talent for witty dialogue and a keen sense of irony to deliver a script and characters that are both real and entirely fictional at the same time, due to the presence of a separate, meta-fictional narrative. The star-studded ensemble cast featuring Carla Bruni, Adrien Brody, Tom Hiddleston, and Kathy Bates will leave you pondering the absurdities they roll out in such a matter-of-fact manner. 

Allen with Carla Bruni, about to film a scene.
As a filmmaker, Mr Allen has managed to comment on the romantic-minded among us who wish we were born of a different era, when in fact if we appreciated the things in front of us, we would learn to enjoy life a little more. As an actor, Owen Wilson has managed to exceed 'the Woody Allen' by imbuing Gil with an infectious enthusiasm for art, life, and one of the most beautiful cities on earth, Paris: may we lose ourselves there on a cobble-stoned street and recall Allen's wonderful characters sooner rather than later.


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