Allen’s finest since Annie Hall
Every writer adores Paris. There’s something magical about the city. It’s mainly the history the place holds on to. The game changers of English literature lived there and feasted life. Woody Allen would have been a proud member if only he could travel back in time. Hence, he brings forth Midnight in Paris, a fantasy rom-com about a novelist-turned-screenwriter who visits Paris in the Golden Era.
“We’re on vacation here” announces his tired fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams). But, Gil is in the Parisian trance and cannot bear the tirade she pulls on him. Her parents dislike him thoroughly. Her mother says “there’s a part of him missing” while her father blatantly announces “he’s weird.” During one of their dinners, Inez meets her old friend Paul Bates (Michael Sheen), who in Gil’s own words “is pseudo-analytical”. Indeed. Paul disagrees with the historical information given by a tour guide (played by French first lady Carla Bruni). He even rejects a correction Gil makes at a painting by Picasso.
Allen somehow brings the terse drama within the first fifteen minutes and then, he transports a drunken Gil to the 1920s, where he meets his idols, interacts with them, and changes the lives of a few. These idols include Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Tom Eliot and Salvador Dali. It’s wonderful that Allen has written these historical legends just the way they were. Scott was in love with Zelda and knew it was doomed. Hemingway was shaken by the First World War and spoke lines complete with verbal consistency and masculine presage.
There’s also Marion Cotillard playing Adriana, Picasso’s mistress, who from her introduction becomes the apple of Gil’s eye. Adrien Brody plays Spanish painter Salvador Dali who is introduced as the comic fix. He compares Gil’s failed romance with Inez to that of his fixation with painting rhinoceroses.
Cinematographer Darius Khondji bathes Paris in a rich golden hue which fits the 1920s with glowing lamps and lush art direction. Gil feels that Paris is best when it rains, and Inez directly opposes to it. No wonder they were doomed to break up!
There’s always a Woody Allen character in every film of his. Owen Wilson’s Gil is that character. From examining wine with a scientific approach to talking gibberish without a break,Wilson fits well in those Allen-esque costumes. Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein is a treasure to watch.
Allen has been writing since 1965. He still strikes to me as the guy who can entertain audiences of any age. There’s that magic in Midnight in Paris that’s inevitable. I last felt it while watching Annie Hall.
There’s nothing to dislike in Midnight in Paris. It’s all about being hooked on to the narrative magic of Woody Allen.