by Tim Ross
Fans of Woody Allen know he’s a man trapped in time. The prolific 75-year-old writer/director/actor looks much like he did 30 years ago – the same big glasses, corduroy pants and tweed jacket. In fact, they may literally be the same clothes.
Allen even writes his screenplays on a typewriter he’s had for almost 60 years. Yes, a typewriter! So it’s no surprise his latest film is about a man who longs for the nostalgia of the past.
“Midnight in Paris” stars Owen Wilson as Gil Pender, a successful Hollywood screenwriter who’d rather be a novelist. He and his fiancé, Inez (Rachel McAdams), are vacationing in Paris to plan their upcoming wedding. While Inez and her parents obsess over the lavish ceremony, Gil becomes enamored with the romance of Paris.
While Inez wants to take taxis and soak up the tourist destinations, Gil wants to walk in the Paris rain and soak up the sights where famous writers congregated, falling in love with the Paris of old, specifically of the 1920s.
One night, Gil gets lost and decides to rest in a cobblestone corner. When the clock strikes midnight, an old car pulls up with partygoers and Gil hops in thinking he’s going to hang out with some Parisians at a costume party.
It’s at this point that “Midnight in Paris” takes on a surrealistic quality reminiscent of Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and less like most of his other work.
Gil is magically transported to Paris in the 1920s. Over the next few nights, he meets the same car at the same corner at midnight and is immersed in a world of his desire while hobnobbing with Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Salvadore Dalí (Adrien Brody) and others from the golden era of art, literature and culture.
A minor issue with “Midnight in Paris” is Wilson’s attempt to channel Woody Allen the actor. Wilson is a good choice for Gil because of his own self-deprecating style of comedy – which lends itself perfectly to Allen’s writing – but at times takes it a step further and comes across as an imitation of Allen’s halting, hesitation-filled one-liner style. Still, there are worse comics to emulate.
With elements of science fiction, time travel and psychological drama all rolled up into a Woody Allen comedy with his usual cycle of one-liners and neurosis-fueled humor, “Midnight in Paris” unfolds like a long, leisurely walk on the Champs Elysees that won’t disappoint long-time Allen fans and it might just find some new ones.
Grade: 3/4 stars