Well, I’ve got to tell you – if you haven’t seen a Woody Allen film in recent years, you are in luck. His latest film is one of his best, certainly in the last 20 years or so. Midnight in Paris tells the story of a young man (Owen Wilson at his subdued and handsome best as Gil) who is visiting Paris with his fianceé (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. It is obvious to the observer that these two share very little in common. He is a successful screen writer who dreams of living in a Paris attic and strolling in the rain. She wants a new house in Malibu.
While the story is rooted in reality, a supernaturally fanciful element provides charming answers to his musings. He is transported back to the the heyday of the Jazz Age in Paris every midnight and meets many of his literary and artistic idols. As is typical in an Allen movie, they are played by a parade of famous actors, all of whom have a great time impersonating the likes of Hemmingway, Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald … I’ll leave the rest for you to happily discover. Oscar-winner Kathy Bates is marvelous as Gertrude Stein and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard is luminous as Adriana (a composite of Picasso’s mistresses), the object of Gil’s intense interest.
I could really relate to this aspect of the movie because of a dream I had many years ago. At the time, I was studying French in school, as well as Philosophy and I dreamed that I ran into Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881-1955) and had a long, interesting conversation with him in French (not actually a possibility with my skills!). This movie seemed like a similar experience.
Be aware that the more familiar you are with the writers and artists of the ’20s, the more references you will understand. It’s a very smart and witty film. It is also a lovely love story.
In the course of his trips back in time, Gil examines his relationship with his fianceé and his creative expectations as well. Where the story ends up will keep you guessing. But for many of us watching, the end comes too soon. This is a visual feast of Paris, then and now. It is a love letter to my favorite city. It even included one of my favorite places there, the flea market at Porte de Clignancourt.
My husband loved this film so much, he wanted to go back and see it again a day later. I convinced him we should wait a week or so. We also determined to buy the DVD when it is released so we can revisit it often.
The romantic city bestows a lingering kiss on us all in this wonderful film. I fell in love all over again.
Rating: 4 reels out of 4. The best of the year so far.