Don’t you love the poster for Woody Allen’s newest film, Midnight in Paris? Owen Wilson walking the streets of Paris under Vincent van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night. It’s seriously one of the most charming film posters I have ever seen. But I have to admit I am partial to just about anything Allen creates. A long time fan of all his films, this one is no exception. Each one is a journey into film, theater, history and relationships in a city that I love.
For a long time his focus was New York City, and over the last few years, it’s been London, Barcelona and now Paris. The opening of this film is reminiscent of his montage opening of Manhattan, where he zeroed in on beautiful shots of NYC with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in the background. It was a real salute to the a city that Allen knows how to capture perfectly and light up.
He does the same thing with Paris in this film. It’s almost as though he lived there for a while, studied it and fell madly in love with it. The opening scene is a 4-minute salute to the city’s magic. Paris is a major character in this film, much like NYC was one in all his early films. Owen Wilson’s character spends a lot of time roaming the streets of Paris, and the main characters spend much of the early part of the film exploring the city’s landmarks and gardens. After seeing it, I have to admit that I have a desperate yearning to flee to Paris and perhaps spend the rest of my life there. It has that kind of effect on you.
The film is about a Hollywood screenwriter who has had his share of success writing for big studios. On a visit to Paris with his fiancee’ and her parents, he is in the midst of writing a novel about time travel – a man who works in a “nostalgia store”. Owen Wilson plays the lead role in particular Woody Allen fashion. He speaks a certain way, he acts a certain way, that is very Woody Allenesque, and really pulls it off. We kind of get the feeling that he’s not completely satisfied with his life when he gets to Paris. He has awkward conversations with his future father-in-law. He doesn’t always want to hang out with the same people his fiancee wants to hang out with. He really wants his novel to be a success and is constantly mulling over its plot, and his fiancee just wants him to get over it, move on and go back to his studio life in Hollywood so they can live a luxurious life. He wants to find meaning in his life.
So, while his fiancee’ is off dancing and enjoying Paris’ night life, he strolls through the streets of Paris. One night, while sitting on a step, after getting lost and unsure of how to get back to his hotel, a car stops and giddy, drinking people tell him to get in. A bit drunk from the wine he’d been drinking all night, he gets in the car and is whisked away to a party where he meets the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald with wife Zelda, Cole Porter, Salvador Dali, Luis Bunel, Man Ray, Henri Matisse, Henri de Toulosse- Lautrec, Pual Gaugin, Edgar Degas and Pablo Picasso. He also meets Gertrude Stein, who offers to edit his book. When he goes back to tell his fiancee about his experience, she doesn’t believe him, and he continues to spend his evenings with all his heroes (and ours). He also falls for a fashion designer, who is also Picasso’s lover, and he learns a thing or two from her about finding happiness in the present.
I won’t tell you much more about the plot, but I will say that I liked the ending. It’s not your typical Hollywood ending and the character does make a choice based on his experience going back in time. As always, Allen and his casting director, Juliet Taylor, cast a very interesting group of actors in this film, many of whom I hadn’t seen before in this movies: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates (as Gertrude Stein), Corey Stoll (as Hemingway), Adrien Brody (who dons a mustache as Salvador Dali, Carla Bruni as a museum guide (not my favorite performance in the film), Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Tom Hiddleston (as F. Scott Fitzgerald), Alison Pill (as Zelda Fitzgerald).
Needless to say, I was not disappointed by Midnight in Paris. I never am with Allen’s films and I’m already waiting eagerly for the next one. Meanwhile, I’ve just got to find a copy of that poster for my house.
Disclosure: I was not compensated to write this review and all opinions expressed are my own.