Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, 2011)
A family travel to the French capital for business. The party includes a young engaged couple who are forced to confront their differing views of a perfect life.
Directing a film per year since the early 1970’s, Woody Allen might become one of the most productive directors of all time. Let’s not count John Ford’s early Westerns or the many short films some directors may have directed in a year. Writing and directing a film every year at 76 years old might be a challenge since the Woodman has been occasionally accused of repeating himself over and over again. However, Midnight in Paris, released in 2011, became one of his most successful movies at the box office. So it was with high expectations I sat through the 94 minutes of this ode to the Paris of the 1920’s.
Gill (Owen Wilson) is about to marry Inez (Rachel McAdams), obviously the wrong girl and moreover the wrong family. He is a daydreamer and he wants to escape his screenwriter job to become a “real” writer and finish his novel. Gill is another Woody Allen-like protagonist, about that there is an interesting fact about the names of his characters. They are always short because he doesn’t like to lose too much time writing them. But here I digress, the couple is visiting Paris with Inez’ parents (Mimi Kennedy & Kurt Fuller). They also encounter Carol (Nina Arianda) and Paul (Michael Sheen) a couple of Inez’s friends. The latter is an old crush of the young woman. Completely exasperated by Paul’s scholar bragging, Gill decides to go walk alone one night. This will lead him to taste the dreams he always wanted.
Similarly structured as The Purple Rose of Cairo, Midnight in Paris is a movie for cinephiles and daydreamers. The romantic depictions of Paris, the encounters with historical figures are elements that I don’t want to spoil for those who haven’t seen the picture. It feels like if Woody wanted to connect with his own nostalgia like his very autobiographical movie Radio Days. The Gill character, played by Owen Wilson, got all the ticks and fads that Allen did when he used to star in his films. Wilson does a good job but it is more an impersonation than actually a composition. Not having read on Allen’s directing to Wilson might be a flaw for this review, but I tend to think that Wilson was on his own (no real directions from Allen) and rewatched early films of Woody and did his best to catch the unique character.
With my high expectations, Midnight in Paris felt a little flat for me and it is because the story isn’t that original or surprising. Even if Darius Khondji’s cinematography is warm and beautiful, the whole of the film lacked in depth and the script could have used some fresh air. However, we are in a Woody Allen movie and the recurring themes, the characters, and the unique Allenian feeling is there. Recommended.