Midnight in Paris – Review
Woody Allen has made over 40 movies in his life. I’m not sure how he keeps getting funding because I don’t know of any that have been “hits,” except maybe Annie Hall, which won Best Picture in 1977. But it seems most of his movies in the last 20 years have been little-seen indies, which always makes me think about why he’s got this film icon status.
While I’m still not sure, his latest film–“Midnight in Paris”–is marvelous, and surely an example of what he can do at the top of his game. Owen Wilson plays a writer vacationing in Paris, who wishes so hard he was living in the 1920’s, that it starts to come true. Living in the past, he also starts to learn things about his real life in the present.
The movie is stuffed with references to people of the early 1900’s. Many of them are names I recognized, but I had no in-depth knowledge of their lives or careers. So while it’s fun for me to meet the “real” F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, it must be even better for someone more well-versed in American literary icons. And not just Americans. Famous Spanish and French luminaries also make appearances. For a history buff, this would be a scream. For me, it was fun enough to just go along with the story.
Wilson is very likeable. I usually find him easy to like on-screen, but he’s not playing any kind of ladies’ man or charmer here. He’s just a guy who prefers romantic notions to superficial realities. Compared to his slightly materialistic fiancee (Rachel McAdams), I sympathized even more with his character than I might have otherwise. As he wanders the streets of Paris, dipping in and out of the past, there’s such a light-hearted sense of glee to his character that it infected me too. I was smiling just at situations that arose, waiting for the inevitable witty dialogue to follow.
When I say “witty” dialogue, I don’t mean it’s only purpose is to be clever. I found it very realistic, yet exaggerated. Hemingway’s style of speech is odd, like his writing. But both he and Wilson’s modern speech always sound natural, not forced.
As per usual with Woody Allen movies, it’s full of people you recognize in small parts. Michael Sheen and Kathy Bates are especially good. However, there are enough local actors (it was shot in France, after all), that it doesn’t feel too Hollywood. Especially toward the end, some of the people you meet aren’t familiar, which makes it that much easier to just think of them as characters and not actors.
Lastly, the movie is beautiful. If you don’t want to visit Paris after this, it would be a shock. Incidentally, I saw this with my wife and she still has no desire to visit Paris. While she might be crazy, at least it saves me the money of a plane ticket. I might have to go by myself though. The movie is just a joy to watch unfold. Funny, mysterious, and with a real meaning to it. Highly recommended.