Hollywood screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson) is on a sojourn in Paris with his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), as a sort of last gasp before they get married. It is immediately clear that Gil loves Paris and is hoping that this trip will convince Inez to move there with him, and enable him to finally give up screenwriting and concentrate on writing his novel. It is also clear from the first moment we see Inez, who couldn't be more bored as they stand on Giverny's Bridge aux Nymphéas, that she not only could care less that she is caught in a moment of beauty, in a living painting by Monet, but that she and Gil are beyond incompatible.
|Adriana and Gil stroll through 1920s Paris after midnight|
Gil is a glass half-full type of guy, and although he feels unease while his pushy girlfriend dotes on a pedantic bore (Michael Sheen) and her parents obviously dislike and insult him, he still doesn't want to see that not only is she not right for him, but just not a nice person. He blames all his restlessness on himself and one evening gets tipsy enough to finally refuse to be dragged along with her to do something he doesn't want to do. He gets lost wandering the winding streets of Paris and as the the clocks chime midnight a classic sedan, much like Cinderella's pumpkin coach, pulls up and a bunch of partying folks whisk him away for a ride. He's too sloshed and lost to argue, and the next thing he knows they're not hel[ing him find his hotel but have taken him to a party with Cole Porter playing the piano and singing "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love," and Zelda Fitzgerald (Allison Pill) flirting with him and introducing him to her husband Scott (Tom Hiddleston).
At first in shock, Gil can't believe that his dreams of going back to Paris when he believes it was really exciting, the 1920s, could be coming true — until he meets one of his heroes, Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll). He soon finds himself talking books with one of his idols. Hemingway tells him he won't read his novel, but he'll show it to his friend Gertrude Stein (a perfectly cast Kathy Bates). Gil runs to get his manuscript, but finds the spell has worn off and returns to his hotel room. Luckily for him, the charm works again the next night and he is able to return, where he meets not only Stein, but Pablo Picasso and the beautiful and lost soul Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who is Picasso's current mistress.
|Adrien Brody as Salvador Dalí, "Rhinoceros!"|
Owen Wilson, always an appealing actor, gives his best performance yet as Gil. He is one of the few actors who has been able to perform a lead character in a Woody Allen film and not seem as if he was mimicking Woody Allen. There are some typical Allen throwaway jokes — complaints about pseudo-intellectuals and the high culture/low culture debate. Inez's Ugly American parents are probably the ugliest Allen or any film has ever depicted, but somehow it all stays funny. Barbed at times, but still funny.
Another one of the reasons so much of the film works is that there are still many buildings that still evoke a past era in a city as old and charming as Paris. It must have ben easy for allen, sitting in some 19th century beautiful old building to dream up some scenes from the city's past. The film, Allen's 41st, is the first he has filmed entirely in Paris, and also using the digital intermediate process. The theater where we saw the movie had digital projection and the film was crisp and beautiful to look at.
It is hard to leave the theater after Midnight in Paris and not start checking flight deals to France, or try to dig up the book Kiki's Paris from my art book collection. Bon travail, M. Woody. Merci.