This has been touted as the best Woody Allen film for years but they said that about Vicky, Christina, Barcelona too, and that was a crashing disappointment.
The first thing to say perhaps is that, despite having lots of ‘touristy’ establishing shots of Paris, this fetishising of the city is not so intrusive as it was in Vicky, Christina partly, I think because the film is about that kind of touristic fascination with a place but also that Allen seems to ‘get’ Paris in a way he didn’t with either Barcelona or London. It’s a city that likes Jazz and likes him, and it looks like he genuinely reciprocates – one of the characters suggests that the cold, dark universe is partly justified by the existance of a city as beautiful as Paris.
Owen Wilson here takes on the Allen-substitute role, and rather creditably. He plays Gil, a very successful American script-doctor sick of his hack-work, and wanting to move to Paris to write a proper ‘literary’ novel, though this would entail a serious loss of income. He is engaged to be married to Inez (Rachel McAdams), the daughter of richTea-Party supporters, who has no wish for her husband-to-be to give up his lush Beverly Hills lifestyle unless it’s for more of the same in Malibu.
Gil is struggling to finish his novel until he is magically transported each night after midnight to the Paris he yearns after, that of the 1920’s where he meets all the artistic greats who congregated there then, and also Adriana (Marion Cotillard) a serial mistress of great artists with whom he begins falling in love, but who herself hankers after her own ‘Golden Age’ – for her, the Belle Époque.
A film about nostalgia, its attractions and dangers, Midnight in Paris really is Allen’s best film for years, a funny and touching romantic fantasy on the lines of Purple Rose of Cairo. A few more like this, please!