Wednesday, June 1, 2011

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (2011)

Written & Directed by Woody Allen


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA  May 22, 2011 6:40PM


"Midnight In Paris" opens with an three minute montage, set to a jazz score, of beautifully shot areas throughout this city of lights. While it was interesting to see yet it would seem more appropriate for a travel advertisement than for a film opening but like most of the films of Woody Allen, which seems to be set in a world that looks like a postcard where everything is bright, clean and picturesque and populated with only wealthy, well-educated, attractive and almost always Caucasian people who have conversations in a way that (if ever) is no longer actually spoken. This statement is not meant to be derogatory as I am a huge fan of his work but simply stating a fact that when you see one of Mr. Allen's films, it is clearly a very distinct and unique form of cinema and "Midnight In Paris" is no exception.

Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is a frustrated but successful Hollywood writer who is on a dream trip to Paris with his fiance, Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy). Gil is inspired by the city to finally leave films behind and finish writing the dream novel he has always wanted to do. Inez is less than supportive since she is not fully convinced that Gil is talented enough to actually write a book and thinks he should just stick with making money in movies.

While out to dinner one evening, they run in to Paul Bates (Michael Sheen), a former boyfriend of Inez and his girlfriend (Nina Arianda). Paul is an insufferable bore who thinks he's an expert on every subject and while Inez is impressed, Gil can't stand him. Paul invites the couple out to join them dancing but Gil begs off and prefers to just walk back to their hotel.

It's soon midnight and Gil has managed to get lost but a Rolls-Royce full of drunken revelers who stop to give him a lift. Once they arrive at a bar, the couple, F. Scott (Tom Hiddleston) and Zelda (Alison Pill) brings Gil inside and introduces him to their friend, Ernest (Corey Stoll). Gil soon realises that he has somehow gone back in time to the 1920's, an era that he greatly admires and the two men he has just met are his literary heroes, Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

Gil gets up the nerve to tell Hemingway that he is writing a novel and ask if he might read it to give him some advice. He declines but suggests that his friend, Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) might be a better choice. Gil is ecstatic by this news and will bring the manuscript the next day.

The following evening with his novel in hand, Gil insists that Inez go with him to the same spot to await Hemingway's arrival.  After a lengthy period, Inez has had enough of his craziness and heads back to the hotel but as soon as the clock strikes twelve, a car pulls up and off they go to meet Gertrude Stein.

Once they arrive, Gil soon meets other iconic artists and writers of the time such as Luis Bunuel, T.S. Eliot, Man Ray and Cole Porter but he is captivated by Adriana (Marion Cotillard) who is Pablo Picasso's current muse and mistress. He soon finds himself falling for her and confessing that he is from the future with wishes that he could stay in this time where he feels he belongs.

Will Gil be able to fulfill his dream of living in the past or will he have to return to the complicated and difficult present?

This plot in any young film maker's hands would probably have come across as corny and cheesy but Mr. Allen is skillfully able to make this fantasy seem grounded and actually believable. For example, Gil never for one moment questions his sanity but simply thinks that he just made a wrong turn and is now very fortunate to meet his long dead idols which helps make the situation even  more funnier. Mr. Allen's script is full of the typical high-brow humor and the zany antics that has long become his trademark but this time it works in his favor as he has managed to make it all feel fresh, thoughtful and funny. "Midnight" also looks really good thanks to the brilliant work of noted cinematographer, Darius Khondji, which is his second Allen film after the forgettable 2003, "Anything Else".

Mr Wilson is much better than I thought he would be in the role of the aspiring novelist as he delivers his usual laid-back charm and comic timing but I still couldn't help wondering about other actors who still might have been a better fit in the part while Ms McAdams was surprisingly ineffective as she's never able to bring much humor to her character and only makes her just an unpleasant, self-centered nag. As with most of  Mr. Allen's films, the rest of the supporting roles are well chosen with special mention to be made of Oscar-winners, Ms Cotillard who is perfectly sexy and seductive and Adrien Brody's brief but hilarious turn as Salvador Dali.

While this is far from the high artistic level of Mr. Allen's best known and well-loved previous works but "Midnight In Paris" is still a delightful and charming little comedy that is a refreshing alternative to your typical summer fare.