Directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard
It’s no secret that Woody Allen is one of the most prolific filmmakers in the history of film itself. His notorious ruminations on various aspects of the human condition have helped establish himself as both a great writer and director, with his career spanning nearly five decades. Notoriety aside, much of Allen’s recent work hasn’t been able to carry with it the importance or general impact his more famous projects have, leading even avid fans to believe that such a lengthy career may finally be taking its dreaded toll. Fortunately for them, Midnight in Paris, in light of being a mild departure for Allen, marks the writer/director’s second tremendous return to form following 2008’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona thanks to an abundance of straightforward charm and admirable simplicity.
Midnight in Paris establishes itself as a love letter for the City of Lights almost immediately, complimenting the gorgeous setting with some equally breathtaking cinematography. If that wasn’t enough, we’re introduced to central character Gil as his current stay in Paris with fiancée Inez results in an immediate and overt fondness of it. Conflicting ideals lead to conflict itself as Gil’s walk home one night in an attempt to clear his head causes him to stumble upon something rather peculiar: a carload of young partygoers that arrive at the stroke of midnight, of whom invite Gil to an extravagant social gathering and appear to be of extreme historical significance.
As a writer, Gil’s immediately taken by these individuals’ importance from an artistic and literary standpoint. Given who said individuals appear to be, the film certainly showcases an obvious fondness for the arts as our protagonist’s nightly escapades begin to escalate into something increasingly whimsical, humorous and highly enjoyable as such. With said whimsy comes the aforementioned air of simplicity that Allen’s previous work has sometimes lacked, yet the entire production manages to very thoroughly entertain thanks to how fun and oddly informative and intelligent it remains throughout, if only from an artistic standpoint.
This isn’t to say that the filmmaker’s penchant for illustrating an ongoing internal and often moral quandary certain characters must inevitably tackle is altogether absent; Gil’s uncertainty regarding his impending marriage to haughty Inez will most likely ring familiar in terms of thematic substance, however the more dramatic instances brought about in this regard are far less pronounced, and appropriately so. Owen Wilson’s portrayal of said protagonist is surprisingly on-point, and his demeanor as the impulsive, struggling writer is wholly believable and not nearly as grating as his past roles have sometimes proven to be. Ample chemistry exists between him and his costars, of whom seem to have had as much fun inhabiting their roles as Allen had making the film. McAdams also aptly handles her role, showing off her chops as the perfect foil to her fiancé’s free-spirited nature, providing for but a pinch of light tension between roles whenever the opportunity arises.
Frankly, I haven’t had this much fun with any film to be released in 2011 thus far. Woody Allen has almost outdone himself in blending an all-too-appealing Parisian setting with some equally engrossing subject matter and enthralling characters from a time when artistic creativity was at its peak. The simple-mindedness of the production very rarely if at all gets in the way of allowing one to appreciate what it has to offer in terms of pure fantasy, and a wholly likable cast ensures that any glaring faults can be easily overlooked. All in all, Midnight in Paris is a masterful, endearing and often remarkable slice of cinematic heaven.