Friday, June 24, 2011
Movie Review: Midnight in Paris
I'm no expert on Woody Allen films so I can not say, as other critics have, that Midnight in Paris is a "return to form" for the eclectic and acclaimed director. Based on the films that I have seen, however, I can't say MIP is the best but it is the most entertaining.
MIP finds Owen Wilson as the Allen's stereotypical surrogate on a vacation in Gay Parì with his Fiance Ines (Rachel McAdams, as beautiful as ever) and her parents. The film opens with him lamenting his decision years ago to pursue a sell-out career making popcorn entertainment in Hollywood rather than follow his dream of living in Paris to write novels. He is a man who idealizes old-fashioned-ness, wanting to go on midnight strolls through the city and talking about how beautiful Paris must be in the rain.
Recently, he has decided to take another stab at a novel, working on a piece about a man (a surrogate for him who -- again -- is a surrogate for Woody Allen, how's that for meta?) who works in a nostalgia shop. Owen's character is that man, not selling nostalgia but wishing he could live in nostalgia, specifically the Fitzgerald age of 1920's Paris.
He gets his wish. After becoming bored with Inez's pedantic friends (comfortably played by Michael Sheen) he wonders of by himself and after entering an old fashioned automobile finds himself in the 1920's, sharing drinks with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway. They skirt around town, colliding with no small number of famous minds and artists, including Pablo Picasso and his girlfriend Adrianna (Marion Cotillard of Inception, as beautiful as ever).
The film is charming. Allen doesn't waste any time with having his character grapple with the impossibility of his situation, rather he dives right in, enjoying old-Paris nightclubs and parties and engaging in debate on art, poetry and love with the masters themselves (a particularly enjoyable chat about Rhinoceri occurs with Salvador Dali). The central theme of the film is about appreciating the present instead of wistfully longing for an intangible past and Allen embraces it bluntly, having his characters discuss the very subject for which his film is a metaphor.
MIP is a mainstream person's art film. It doesn't wallow in the slime of the human condition, it doesn't dwell on sadness and overcoming personal demons. Instead Allen invites the viewer along on a stroll through the streets and eras of Paris through the perspective of Wilson's character and the result is a surprisingly heartwarming piece of summer cinema. A-