Midnight in Paris

At last! A new movie for adults that’s charming, romantic, laugh out-loud funny—and even wise. In Midnight in Paris director/writer Woody Allen delivers a perfect soufflé of a film, not weighty, not controversial, just pleasant to watch and fun to talk about afterwards. If you used to be a Woody Allen fan, get ready to rediscover him.

The movie opens in a gorgeous cinematic love letter to Paris etched by cinematographer Darius Khondji (Cheri)—all the famous sites, glorious in the Gallic sun or sparkling from a million lights at night. By the end of the sequence, you’re in a trance from your own memories of Paris, or planning how to get there maintenant. Or both.

Tall, blond Owen Wilson is Woody Allen’s latest film fantasy of himself and surely the most appealing. With his light Texas drawl, Wilson is spot on with the befuddled Woody Allen speech pattern and he’s got the hilarious self-deprecation down pat. Being in a Woody Allen film, Wilson is mired in romantic predicaments, of course, and because the script is near-flawless, he gets in deeper trouble, and sloughs off more self-delusions with each entangled moment.

Gil (Owen Wilson), a Hollywood scriptwriter, and his fiancée Inez (luscious but shallow Rachel McAdams), as well as his future Tea Party in-laws, are on a business trip to Paris. Gil is rich from writing bad movies. Now he wants to become a real writer. Write a novel. Like his heroes in the Lost Generation who lived in Paris in the 20s, Gil wants to walk every day in the rain along the city’s glory-cobbled streets.

But all Inez wants to do is go shopping and have a sneaky affair with a faux intellectual named Paul (Britisher Michael Sheen). As lust-filled toward Inez as Gil is, he’s beginning to suspect she might not be his muse after all.

One night, a tipsy Gil finds himself sprawled on a park stairway. A distant clock strikes midnight. Suddenly a 1920s roadster limousine whirls out of the fog and Gil is swooped up by the merrymakers inside. Off they go to a wild flapper party (where the costumes take your breath away). Cole Porter himself is at the piano, singing Gil’s favorite songs. F. Scott Fitzgerald and his dazzling wife Zelda (wonderfully played with incandescent fury by Allison Pill) introduce him to everyone. In a gesture of drunken camaraderie, Ernest Hemingway (a hunky Carl Stohl) offers to show Gil’s novel tomorrow night to his pal, Gertrude Stein.

Gil is ecstatic—but how is he going to time-travel again? No need for logic. It’s Paris. Magic things happen all the time. (And, mon dieu, is that Carla Bruni, wife of Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, playing a guide at the Musėe Rodin?)

Next midnight, Gil is off again to his nostalgia paradise. Soon he meets all the stars in the Golden Age firmament. Is that Salvador Dali rhapsodizing about a rhinoceros? Did Gil just give Luis Bunuel an idea for a movie? Did Gertude Stein (Kathy Bates) really say she loved his novel? And who is that incredible young woman Pablo Picasso is squiring around? It’s Adriana (Marion Cotillard at her most fetching) and Gil can’t take his eyes off her.

Soon Gil decides to stay in the 20s with Adriana. Alas, he hadn’t checked out this scheme with her. It seems Adriana uses nostalgia to avoid the present just like Gil does. She hates the 20s—she wants to live during the Belle Époque, hanging out with Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Gil is devastated. Why can’t Adriana be happy to live in the 20s? Duh—why can’t Gil be happy to live in his present? Hmmm… Is Gil going to get some Life Lessons with his magic? Is there a Midnight in Paris waiting for each of us?

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