On holiday in Paris with his fiancé, Gil, a successful Hollywood screenwriter and self confessed nostalgist, harbours the dream of someday writing a great American novel. He’s besotted with the golden age of Paris of the 1920s, and the legends of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dali. Exploring the city, Gil embarks on an enchanted journey to discover the streets alive with hidden wonders that will change his life forever.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is the return to form movie that many of Woody Allen’s fans have been looking for. The film is a lightweight fantasy that deals with the fractious relationship that daydreaming Gil (Wilson) has with his more hard-headed fiancée (McAdams).
Gil is the definition of American success. He works in Hollywood and is highly paid for that work. But he is discontented because he doesn’t respect what he does. Allen sets up a familiar art-versus-commerce theme and explores it by having Gil live his dream of visiting what he imagines is Paris’s Golden Age of the 1920s. In this way, writer and director Allen is probably having a sly dig at his critics. Gil has all the nostalgic preoccupations that critics accuse Allen of demonstrating in his work. The past is never far away, even in his movies that have contemporary settings like this one.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is peopled with educated, financially successful folk. Gil’s only problem is essentially a romantic one. Should I marry the woman I am with? When he enters Jazz Age Paris, he is confronted with this question again and again when he meets Adriana, an artists model (Cottilard).
The fun of the movie lies here. Not so much in Gil’s romantic search, but in seeing him travel back through time without any control over where he ends up and who he meets. There are many delightful cameos by the type of excellent actors one would expect to see in an Allen production. It’s tempting to name-check these but half the fun is in seeing which well-known face will be playing which well-known artistic figure. Although, I didn’t know Corey Stoll, the actor who plays the part of Ernest Hemingway, he does a fine job of embodying a light parody version of the famous author.
Filmgoers who have read Allen’s short stories or who have heard his stand-up comedy material from the 1960s will recognize the seeds of this material. I remember as a teenager frequently hearing an Allen comedy routine where he tells about the fictional summer he was in 1920s Paris and spent time with the Fitzgeralds and Hemingway. “And then Gertrude Stein punched me in the mouth” was the running tagline.
Although this is a light soufflé of a picture, the story is played out with the craft and talent one would expect from this source. There are moments that will remind long-time Allen fans of PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO or even ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN, but there are also some strong gags that pay off beautifully on their own account, especially in the second half. The performances are as strong as always, however I’m not ready to accept the quintessentially English Michael Sheen as an American.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS will entertain those filmgoers who enjoyed Woody Allen’s pre-2000 movies but have become a little wary of his more recent work. The movie is screening currently in Australia and runs for 94 minutes. I rated it 3.5/5