Monday, May 23, 2011

Movie with Abe: Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris
Directed by Woody Allen
Released May 20, 2011

There’s something noticeably different about Woody Allen’s new film. The Oscar-winning filmmaker has been cranking out at least one movie per year for the past two decades, and especially within the last ten years, it’s been hard to find a hit. It’s almost too easy to predict the plot of an Allen film, which always finds one partner of an unhappy to moderately happy couple considering an affair against the backdrop of some world-renowned city, often New York. A deviation from Allen’s typical formula comes as a major surprise, and it’s refreshing if not entirely effective.

“Midnight in Paris” starts out much the way most Woody Allen films do, with the signature title credits, albeit played over dialogue, a sign that Allen no longer needs to ease into his pictures in quite the same fashion. Gil (Owen Wilson) is clearly with a woman, Inez (Rachel McAdams), who isn’t right for him, prone to fits of frustration when Gil expresses his lack of desire to socialize or do anything exciting save complain about his unfinished novel. For a lonely, down-on-his-luck Gil, a stroll through the city of love after midnight gives him just the release he needs: an unbelievable audience with some of the most famous writers of all time, all in their prime.

Wilson’s nightly trips back in time to the glorious 1920s still constitute an affair of sorts. His fiancée and her disapproving parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy) have no idea where Gil goes each night, and his demeanor and separation from their lives causes them much resentment and anger. Gil, much like a typical Allen movie lead, also becomes a completely different person when he is in a world that welcomes rather than stifles his creativity. The reason for this rift in the space-time continuum is never explained, but that’s the magic of it all, and what makes Paris a worthwhile place to spend time with Allen’s characters.

The roaring twenties provide plenty of opportunities for amusing allusions and appearances, including F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), and Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), as well as the always alluring Marion Cotillard as the muse of many, Adriana Ivancich. All play their parts to perfection, and Wilson is the odd man out. It’s hard to believe that the seemingly unenlightened comedian would melt at the sight of a famed author or artist, and that detracts from the character’s credibility. Those in the present day, including his family-to-be and a hilariously pretentious Michael Sheen, are wonderfully entertaining, and it might have been nice to have seen more of them. Gil has trouble piecing together the mesmerizing nature of his nights the morning after they’re complete, and this film suffers from a similar lack of longevity. While it’s going, it’s entirely captivating, but it’s a fleeting story that can be quickly forgotten after and feels like it should have been much more lasting.


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