MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
When American couple John (Kurt Fuller) and his wife Helen (Mimi Kennedy) visit Paris on business, they are accompanied by their daughter Inez (Rachel McAdam) and her writer fiancé Gil (Owen Wilson). Gil is again smitten by Paris, regretting he didn't stay when he visited once before and hoping for inspiration to help him finish his first novel following a good run with Hollywood screenplays. After a late night walk on his own, Gil is urged by a happy crowd in a vintage car to join them at a party, which to his astonishment is full of famous writers and artists from the Paris of the 1920s, being entertained by Cole Porter (Yves Heck) at the piano. He soon meets the stunning Adriana (Marion Cottillard), currently having an affair with Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo) and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) who offers to read his manuscript. Unsure of how all this happened, Gil returns to the midnight rendezvous point once more.
Review by Louise Keller:
The magic of Paris and the mystique of an era gone-by are the stars of Midnight in Paris - Woody Allen's best film for years. It's a clever premise and script that Allen has concocted, in praise of arguably the most beautiful city in the world - present and past, and we are reminded of a time when history, art and culture collide gloriously. Playing what might have been a role Allen played himself in his younger days, Owen is perfect as the terminally uncertain would-be novelist Gil, complete with paranoid foibles and mannerisms as he wishes he had lived during the 1920s when his literary idols were making their mark. The dialogue is witty and funny and the storyline soars, like a lively Charleston in full flight.
Like Allen, I don't need much convincing; all the iconic landmarks we see in the film's opening sequence are lovely reminders of what the city of love has to offer. We see Paris during the day, at night, in the sunshine, in the rain. The rain is important because Gil loves to walk through Paris in the rain. Unlike his fashion-conscious fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) who doesn't like doing anything that Gil likes. In fact, we don't really know why they are together at all; a fact that Inez' parents, who are in Paris on business, have already worked out and are not shy to mention. Also in the group is the know-all academic Paul (Michael Sheen), who is lecturing at the Sorbonne and on whose every word Inez admiringly, hangs.
The story really takes off when Gil decides to walk back to the hotel alone late one night and after the stroke of midnight is invited into a yellow vintage Peugeot with a group of strangers drinking Champagne. The cobbled streets lead to an elegant soiree which he discovers to his astonishment is at the home of Jean Cocteau, with guests including Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, while Cole Porter sings at the piano. Is he dreaming?
The delights of how Gil weaves his way into this society and asks Gertrude Stein to read his manuscript are numerous and best left to discover for yourself. Marion Cotillard is wonderful as Pablo Picasso's fashion-designer muse Adriana, with whom Gil makes a connection. She is as warm as Inez is cold and like Gil, we fall in love with Cotillard instantly. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is terrific as a museum guide and Léa Seydoux is appealing as Gabrielle, reminiscent of a young Mia Farrow. The entire cast is superb with Kathy Bates memorable as Gertrude Stein and a knock out cameo by Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali in a fabulous scene involving other surrealists. There is no end to the famous writers, painters and artists who pop up unexpectedly along the way. There's even a look-in into Adriana's favourite golden age of The Belle Epoque, when Maxim's is the epitome of elegance and the daring Can Can shocks the establishment.
Littered by delicious throwaways and splendid moments, many of them hilarious, this is an adventure that allows us (and the characters) to delve deeper and deeper into time. Midnight in Paris has all the allure of the city itself - if you can't jump on a plane, this is the next best thing.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Woody Allen hasn't abandoned his beloved New York, but he half regrets he didn't, many years ago; and if he did, we'd find him in Paris. This delightful and inspired autobiographical fantasy allows him to reprise that part of his life with a different outcome, as he pays loving homage to the ever spectacular city of light - and love.
Allen has cast Owen Wilson as the nervy, insecure writer Gil, who echoes Allen's mannerisms as he delivers a romantic but hopelessly insecure and naïve writer trying to finish his first novel. Owen channels Allen while retaining his own idiosyncratic persona - not a bad trick. His wardrobe is as close to what Allen's might have been at that age, and his neuroses, while less entrenched, are recognisable.
Rachel McAdams makes the most of her role as Inez, the pretty American princess whose demands are superficial and materialistic, while Gil is encouraged by the ambiance of Paris to be more poetic and romantic. The rift widens as they meet an old flame, Paul (Michael Sheen) who is lecturing at the Sorbonne and makes a pompous fool of himself in Gil's eyes.
But this is all just an entrée before Allen begins to serve a degustation for the main course, tasty treats of fantasy as Gil is drawn magically into the 1920s, with a party in full swing as Cole Porter (Yves Heck) plays and sings one of his classic hits, Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love). This is not the only musical pleasure in the film; Allen's immaculate taste in music is in evidence from the very start, as he simply shows us Paris with a great music cue.
The sense of fun with which Allen invokes some of the great artists and writers is infectious; we first meet F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) at the party, later we meet Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) in a bar, Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) in her apartment hosting Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo) and his girlfriend, the gorgeous Adriana (Marion Cotillard). The latter so fascinates Gil he can hardly speak.
Allen sprinkles others over the cinematic table like seasoning, from Luis Bunuel (Adrien de Van) to T. S. Eliot (David Lowe) and Henri Matisse (Yves-Antoine Spoto), from Toulouse-Lautrec (Vincent Menjou Cortes) to Paul Gaugin (Olivier Rabourdin).
Somehow Allen not only gets away with this audacious cinematic equivalent of name dropping, he makes it entertaining and relevant to his theme: each age harbours a nostalgia about a previous age which is always more golden than the present. Hence these great artists bemoan not having been around during the Renaissance and Adriana wishes for a return to the Belle Époque, Paris at her most ravishing.
Throughout, Gil is a wide eyed stranger in paradise, a fish out of water who yearns to get into the swim of things a la Paris.
Although the film suggests that we should enjoy the present for all it's worth, we have a great time enjoying this brief episode in a literate and beauty-filled past.
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MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (PG)
CAST: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cottillard, Michael Sheen, Gad Elmaleh, Adrien Brody, David Lowe, Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni, Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy, Yves Heck, Corey Stoll, Tom Hiddleston, Marcial Di Fonzo Bo
PRODUCER: Lett Aronson, Jaume Roures, Stephen Tenenbaum
DIRECTOR: Woody Allen
SCRIPT: Woody Allen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Darius Khondji (Johanne Debas co-DoP)
EDITOR: Alisa Lepselter
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Anne Siebel
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 20, 2011