Charming ‘Midnight in Paris’ Delivers Laughs and Culture
I have to admit, I have not seen most of Woody Allen’s movies, and the ones that I have seen failed to impress me. However, Midnight in Paris strikes all the right notes and makes for a smart, fun trip to the movies. The film has a wonderful cast and a silly story that manages to say something larger than it would appear to upon learning the premise.
Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams play an engaged couple on a trip to Paris with the bride-to-be’s parents. Wilson’s character adores the beauty of the city claiming he wants to move there in the first dialogue of the film. His fiance and her parents are not so keen on this idea. Wilson’s character ends up traveling back in time to the 1920s every night at midnight whenever he goes to a certain spot in the city. Through his journeys he meets F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and many others that I will not spoil for you here. Conflict comes when he meets a girl in the 1920s, played by the always exquisite Marion Cotillard.
All of the acting in the film is fine. Outside of Marion Cotillard, who seems to be playing a Hemingway character herself, and some very funny cameos, there is not much to note about the acting. Owen Wilson is his same charming self and that works brilliantly for the film but his performance is not too daring or unfamiliar to him. This is hardly a criticism as there is nothing wrong with the performances just nothing special about them either. Most do exactly what they need to do for their roles, no more no less.
What works best for Midnight in Paris is the downright silliness of it all and how it meshes with the intellectual nature of the film flawlessly. This is a movie where a man time travels and meets almost every writer and artist from the 1920s in one city, yet it works and is all a part of the fun and brilliance of the movie. Any person who passed and somewhat enjoyed their high school English class will light up every time another big name pops up. There is also a very smart lesson here about living in the past versus appreciating the past that the viewer will uncover by the end of the film.
My only true complaint is that despite the fun of wondering which artist will show up next, the overall plot of the film is pretty predictable. It becomes clear a bit too early which woman Wilson’s character is going to end up with in the end. This however, does not take away from the artful genius as it is still a great time getting there.
Midnight in Paris is a ridiculous comedy for culturally sound people, which is why it works. So few directors are brave enough to attempt a film like this, but Woody Allen passes with flying colors. (***1/2 out of 4)