The Woody Allen travelogue continues. The long-time New Yorker has ventured outside his beloved Manhattan and made films in London (Match Point) and Spain (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) in recent years. Now Woody has discovered the wonders of Paris.
Owen Wilson plays the lead character and Woody Allen stand-in, named Gil, a frustrated Hollywood screenwriter who is aiming for something greater by writing the great American novel. He and his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) are visiting Paris with Inez’s parents. While Gil immediately falls in love with the city, Inez and her snooty (read George Bush-loving conservative) parents are not so easily swayed.
From the beginning its clear Gil and Inez (and her family) are in trouble. Allen paints Inez and her ilk with distain and so the writing is on the wall as to their fate. This is especially obvious when we meet Inez’s friend, Paul, an insufferable, pretentious professor…the kind of character that has populated Allen’s films since the 70s.
As Gil and Inez drift away from each other and Gil falls ever more enamoured with Paris, he finds himself alone, slightly drunk, on the street in the middle of the night. At the stroke of midnight a yellow 1920s car pulls up filled with partying Americans. Gil climbs in and lo and behold he is in the company of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Earnest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and a host of other artists and writers from the 20s.
This trip back into time happens repeatedly and Gil becomes infatuated with a girl named Adriana, who is also romantically linked with Hemingway and Picasso. Meanwhile his relationship with Inez in the modern world is growing ever more icy.
Woody Allen’s depiction of 1920’s Paris is a joy, even if it is pure fantasy. The characters, especially Kathy Bates’ Stein and Adrian Brody’s Salvador Dali are fantastic. No wonder Gil doesn’t want to return to the 21st century.
Long-time Woody Allen fans will find plenty of familiar themes here, so despite the glamorous location, this is a story Woody has told before. Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams seem to be aping Woody and Diane Keaton…something about being directed by Allen seems to bring out the imitator, rather than the actor in Woody’s cast.
But, on the plus side, this film contains some of Woody’s best writing in years. His directing style is, as usual, straightforward and unpretentious. And Allen’s not-so-veiled political stance gives the film a bit more substance than other recent outings.
From my point of view, there’s always something worthwhile to be gotten from Allen’s films, and Midnight In Paris has more than most. Relax and go see it.