Movie Review: 'Midnight in Paris'

‘Midnight in Paris’ is, in many ways, one of Woody Allen’s most accessible films in recent memory. The film is as much a love letter to romantics as it is to the “City of Light” itself.

Filled with some terrific performances and an affectionate spirit, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this film.

To be fair, I’m not a fan of the director himself. In a self-imposed silent protest, I had avoided Allen’s films for years, finding them to be overly navel-gazing about the inner workings of complex relationships.

Shame on me. I had been missing out at one the most wistful and enjoyable movie experiences that I have had in years. Thanks to a rather persuasive request, ‘Midnight in Paris’ luckily, was hand-picked for me as “next up” in the Flixnerd Queue.

 

‘Midnight in Paris’ opens with a long montage of beautiful images of Paris. Allen eschews using these scenic moments as a background for opening credits. Instead, the color and vibrance of Parisian streets and iconic images are setting the tone for this unabashed love affair with the city.

Owen Wilson, as ‘Gil,’ is a Hollywood screenwriter who has tagged along with his fiancée and future in-laws, for a vacation to Paris. Gil is a self-described Hollywood Hack screen writer who really yearns to be taken seriously as a novelist.

Gil’s nearly-finished novel, which he won’t allow anyone to actually read, is about a man who owns a memorabilia shop for people who long to revisit the “Golden Age” of their past.

Rachel McAdams plays his wedding-obsessed fiancée whose boorish friends Paul (a charmingly obnoxious Michael Sheen) and Carol compel Gil to spend some time alone walking the streets of Paris at night.

When Gil, lost and inebriated, finds a place to rest on the Paris streets, an antique car approaches him as the clock tower strikes midnight. Its inhabitants invite Gil to join them, and transport he and the audience back to 1920’s-era Paris.

Take the ride, Flixnerds. ‘Midnight in Paris’ finds an engaging and often hilarious balance between Gil’s two worlds. Owen Wilson is well-cast as Gil, and shows a comedic talent and physical expressiveness that is largely wasted in his more well-known “overgrown frat boy” roles.

The supporting cast, portraying literary and artistic luminaries from a bygone era, are yet another reason to see ‘Midnight in Paris’…just for their performances. Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway, Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, Mimi Kennedy and Kurt Fuller as Gil’s put-upon future in-laws, and Marion Cotillard as Gil’s 1920’s era love interest Adriana are just a few of the terrific portrayals. Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali and Stoll’s Hemingway had me laughing out loud with nearly every line.

A little wobbly in the third act, where some self-seriousness is allowed to dampen the tone somewhat, ‘Midnight in Paris’ and Allen are forgiven for the slight misstep. Most of the film is emotionally and intellectually very entertaining and beautifully photographed.

Truly a pleasant and unapologetically romantic surprise, ‘Midnight in Paris’ is, in its sublime romantic optimism, a celebration of the heart.

Flixnerd Rating: ‘Midnight in Paris’  ★★★★☆

 

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