Stars: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy, Michael Sheen, Nina Arianda, Carla Bruni | Written and Directed by Woody Allen
I must begin by saying that I usually write reviews blind, not seeing the film on numerous occassions and trying to be fully “in-the-middle” before writing, so as not to seem like I’m being a “fanboy” or whatever the current term is for fans of something who gush, but alas, this is one of my favourite movies in recent memory, and I need to get that out of the way before I begin this review. This film was released in 2011 and was referred to in many reviews as “Woody Allen’s return to form”, but really it went under many a radar and has since become one of those indie movies you tend to hear very little about. That, my friends, is a crime.
Midnight in Paris is a beautiful movie and from its opening montage of Parisian architecture and street views to wonderfully French string music, it hits any lover of French cinema, of which I am one, between their eyes. It could almost be, in its opening moments, a moving brochure for Paris, a “look what you’re missing” to anyone who has yet to visit the French capital.
We meet Gil (Owen Wilson), a writer who, against his better judgement and against his morals, writes Hollywood film screenplays. His fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), is fine with the work he does, because it pays the bills, and she rolls her eyes when he tells her of his fantasies to write a novel in Paris and take in the history and culture as he discovers his true artistic voice. Inez often mocks Gil when around friends she considers to be more cultured and educated than him, a fact that makes Gil question his part in the relationship. The film, beginning as a character drama, takes a turn for the bizarre, becoming almost science-fiction in its stance, as Gil, getting into a passing car on the Parisian streets at Midnight, finds himself going back in time and mingling with the likes of Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway and Zelda Fitzgerald. He becomes lost in the past and through a variety of mishaps, meetings and realisations, begins to question his life in the current day.
It is an exquisitely made film and the performances from the vast array of actors and actresses are just so wild and wonderful that it is impossible not to be entertained. Owen Wilson, who is the lead here, is not an actor I normally enjoy too much, but here he is excellent. His daydreaming, awkward realist character is realised well and makes for a protagonist, for lack of a better term, that we can get on board with. Rachel McAdams and Michael Sheen, who plays Inez’s friend, Paul, are both sickeningly vile in their stuck-up behaviour and know-it-all demeanours. The cast of historical artists is also fantastic, and all are played with individual style.
I am a fan of Woody Allen, with Manhattan and Annie Hall being purely classic pieces of film, and his recent output like this, and Vicky Christina Barcelona being truly gleaming love-songs to specific places, so it only makes me more intrigued as to where he goes next as a director.
If you haven’t seen this, I couldn’t recommend it enough. It isn’t subtle, but at the same time it has an undeniable charm about it that stole my heart for sure.
Midnight in Paris is available on DVD in the UK (and DVD and Blu-ray elsewhere) at all good film stockists.