Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy, Michael Sheen, Nina Arianda, Carla Bruni, Yves Heck, Alison Pill, Corey Stoll, Tom Hiddleston, Sonia Rolland, Daniel Lundh, Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody
Directed by Woody Allen
Expectations: Woody Allen films are always fun for me, even the bad ones, so I expect to enjoy this.
(If you’re really anticipating this film, come back after watching because I’m about to spoil it all as I seek to analyze.)
Woody Allen is one of the last classic directors still pumping out films like clockwork. While his output of the last fifteen years has had its ups and downs, he never lost that Allen feeling and voice. Not many filmmakers can say that about themselves. So when a new Woody Allen film drops, I always approach with a distinct love and appreciation of his work, but not a lot of high expectations. I seem to enjoy his recent films a lot more than the average Allen fan, but I still approach with trepidation. Leave it to me to moderately enjoy the newest in the string of “Allen’s best film in decades!” Sure, it’s a solid film, but at the end of the day, it isn’t much more than amusing. It’s one of those Allen films I enjoy with a small smile on my face throughout the film, as it’s not laugh-out-loud funny but it is quite charming.
Owen Wilson plays Gil, a dead-end screenwriter looking to better himself through prose writing. What better place to put the finishing touches on his new work than the beautiful and magical city of Paris. He’s there with his fiance and her parents, who all seem to think he’s nothing more than a lunatic going through a phase before he returns to the real work that pays the bills. In order to distance himself from his fiance’s inane friends, Gil decides to go out on a walk through the lamp-lit streets of Paris. He soon finds himself in a wonderful fantasy that only a true nostalgic could appreciate.
Midnight in Paris is an impeccably shot glimpse of the city, a perfect postcard inspiring travel bookings as we speak. I expect no less of Woody Allen though, so as great as it looks, I’d be shocked if it didn’t look this good. Watching a Woody Allen film these days is like going back in time thirty years, as his craft hasn’t changed much with the times. There were a few instances of moving handheld or Steadicam that seemed characteristically out-of-place for him, but it never felt wrong for the film. In any case, I found it especially interesting that as I felt like I was going backwards in time by watching a new “old” movie, Gil ventures into the past himself.
The fantasy elements of Midnight in Paris work astoundingly well and need little explanation. The clock strikes, the car rolls up, the audience is on board. Allen is wise to never explain it past these small details, as it would only get in the way of the enjoyment of the picture. As fun as the fantasy is, you really need to have done your homework beforehand, otherwise a bunch of it won’t make any sense. Luminaries of the 1920s come and go throughout these sequences, adding spice and magical touches unlike anything previously seen in an Allen film. I’ll admit that I’m not quite boned up enough to have gotten every joke, but I’m confident that if I did I would have enjoyed the film only more. This is a literature and art buff’s wet dream.
Where Midnight in Paris succeeds in creating both magical sequences featuring historical characters and modern-day traditional Woody Allen dialogue scenes between couples, it fails at being very funny. The film is enchanting and a joy to sit through, but there’s only one major moment of hilarity, and damn is it a good one. My mantra is that no matter the quality of the Woody Allen film, you can always count on one line, or one scene that is absolutely memorable and hilarious. Midnight in Paris has just the one, but the rest of the film is so mesmerizing and enjoyable that most people probably won’t even notice.
The musical choices are also expertly picked and placed. SPOILERS, but it’s all jazz. Since a soundtrack will probably never come out and you’ll most likely want to acquire that wonderful guitar tune that plays throughout the film, click here and you can buy the MP3 directly from Stephane Wrembel, the artist in question. It’s fantastic stuff. As great as the music is, Woody Allen truly missed a golden opportunity to yank the tablecloth out from under his audience by closing the film with Iron Maiden’s Wasted Years. The song and the film share what is essentially the same theme, that there is no “Golden Age” and that if there is, you’re living in it as we speak. A theme that I truly respect and agree with, Midnight is Paris is one of Allen’s best films to come out in the last few years. It’s nothing especially special, or anything that will garner any real movement come awards time, but it is one hell of an enchanting film.
Will on the mothafuckin ball! Great review!
Wow, you truly are a Woody fan.
It’s one of those Allen films I enjoy with a small smile on my face throughout the film, as it’s not laugh-out-loud funny but it is quite charming.
When you appropriate his films as such, you open up his a broad library of hours and hours of top notch entertainment. As a card carrying member I enjoy the same privileges. He’s the only filmmaker I get all popcorn and movie-date-night with.
My mantra is that no matter the quality of the Woody Allen film, you can always count on one line, or one scene that is absolutely memorable and hilarious.
Ok, you’re not a club member, you’re an elected official!
While his output of the last fifteen years has had its ups and downs, he never lost that Allen feeling and voice.
I felt like I was going backwards in time by watching a new “old” movie
Is the ratio really all that different from any other decade? I don’t think this is very fair. I don’t believe his talent has waned. After Match Point, I threw away the measuring stick for him. What is “old” style at this point? 80’s and earlier that bleeds into the 90’s but still pops up in the 2000’s? I think it’s just Woody a this point. Sure the 70’s were special, but that was 40 fucking years ago! Who hasn’t already made up their mind about Woody Allen by now? I don’t believe his work will be remembered in high/low era’s (at least it shouldn’t be). He has so much artistic integrity that he should be granted the privilege of an overview of the entire block of his career… which is still going! As a bona fide master, he makes his own standards.
Thanks for the review, Will
PS – Adrien Brody?!?! Yesssss!!!
Thanks! This is the first Woody Allen review I’ve done so I was very nervous about doing a good job because I have such a love for his body of work. So it means a lot that you approve!
I battled myself on that line about his recent output. I was strongly thinking about saying that the ups and downs weren’t that different back in the day. Ultimately I decided that his stuff was actually stronger back then and there are a few pretty mediocre recent films such as Melinda and Melinda.
That being said, I completely agree that all the talk of Woody’s fading genius is bullshit. Have you seen Cassandra’s Dream? Everybody shits on that one but it’s easily as tense as Match Point for me. And no one but me seemed to like Whatever Works, but I thought that was his most laugh-out-loud funny movie in a very long time. Scoop? Another fun Allen romp. I haven’t seen the one previous to Paris, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, but I’m sure I’ll like it more than those hideous reviews it got. It’s simply become the standard to shit on Woody Allen and then inexplicably every few years one of his movie penetrates the culture and everyone heralds “the best Allen film in decades!,” before shitting on his next few and then repeating the cycle. He’s far more consistently good than he is given credit for. One of these days I’ll start going back through his stuff and reviewing them.
Hahaha, Adrien Brody was awesome!
Nicely written review Will. Certainly not a great film by any means but possibly Allen’s most generally appealing. I quite loved it (went to see it twice) due to its tremendously charming vibe and whimsical premises. But I do agree, it’s one of those movies that will make you smile throughout rather than make you fall off your chair laughing.
Thanks! I suppose it is generally appealing, but to me it seems like classic Woody. The character of Gil isn’t as neurotic as the traditional Allen character so maybe that’s why it’s more relatable. It just seems like all the literary/historical references would cut it off from a huge portion of the population. It is charming as hell though, isn’t it? It’s one of those movies that grows on me the more I think about it.
Very short, but still one of Woody’s most delightful films and has a great central performance from Owen Wilson. He’s a lot funnier in this than other stuff than he’s been in and does a great job with this material. Good Review Will!