Released: June 10th 2011
Directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachael McAdams, Kathy Bates
“That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me.” Upon viewing the visual splendour that is Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, one could very much ask this question. Using his familiar charismatic shooting style, Allen crafts a wonderful tale of love, life, chasing our dreams and living for the present, not wishing for a past that whilst inspiring, is long gone.
We are introduced from the start to young engaged couple Gil and Inez (Owen Wilson and Rachael McAdams) and gradually shown Gil’s dissatisfaction with modern life and his choice of career, referring to himself as a “Hollywood hack”. Instead he longs to write novels but suffers with writer’s block. In spite of his fiancée’s misgivings, he seeks solace and inspiration in the streets of Paris, where he longs to move out to after marriage. Following this, he finds himself transported back to the 1920’s, making acquaintance with much revered luminaries of the time such as Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, Ernest Hemingway and Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
At the stroke of midnight each night, Gil continues to find his way back to the past, searching for the answers he craves but cannot find in the present. Through his gradually increasing distance with reality, Gil gains the clarity he has long-lacked previously and finds himself discovering truths and adventures unattainable to him before. The invigorating and tantalising youth and exuberance of Marillion Cotillard’s Adriana pushes Gil to find himself again and make the changes he can’t seem to push for back in the present.
Allen’s love for the city of Paris is unmistakable, portraying an idyllic and romanticised view of the city from the very beginning with its charming, casually-paced montage providing a warm opening reception, if only for slightly longer than is necessary. The entire soundtrack is a blissful accompaniment, with “Parlez-Moi d’Amour” (Speak to Me of Love) a gorgeous recurring instrumental theme throughout.
Wilson is spot-on throughout, channelling his inner-Woody Allen to perfection, creating a relatable and humorous persona complete with social ineptitude and blissful ignorance that can be connected and sympathised with. Adams plays a great ‘villain’ so to speak, drawing a real dislike from the audience and cameos from the likes of Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, French first-lady Carla Bruni and Adrien Brody form a wonderful supporting cast. However it is the grace and elegance of Cotillard who steals the show in her limited screen-time. Played with a subtle warmth and compassion, Cotillard finds the niche of sultry, beautiful and mysterious, truly making it her own.
Harking back to his earlier success The Purple Rose of Cairo, Allen chooses not to expand upon the science-fiction elements of the screenplay so much as just embracing the results. This lack of explanation may prove infuriating to more inquisitive viewers, but helps the film in not detracting from the softer, more emotional elements that clearly thrive at the forefront of attention.
Midnight in Paris is definitely a nostalgic tribute to times gone by, serving as Allen’s homage to the time and place in question. Having some background knowledge of the people and works in question can prove helpful but not vital to fully grasping every ounce of Allen’s vast attention to detail. Wildly gushing and very (perhaps slightly overly) sentimental, this is a film that may lack a huge punch, but definitely hits home on the heartfelt front. Many have hailed this as a return to form for Woody Allen and I must say I definitely agree, ranking this exquisite little romantic tale amongst the finest works of his career.
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