It’s comforting to know Woody Allen can still write and direct movies as satisfying as “Midnight in Paris,” even if he isn’t doing anything he hasn’t already. In fact, Allen’s admirers might get a kick out of listing all the films he borrows from: the giddiness of the cosmopolitan clip show from “Manhattan,” the lessons on fantasizing about a bygone era from “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” etc. That familiarity contributes to its charm, in the same sense that folks who keep coming back to Paris find new ways to appreciate it. Besides, it’s common for filmmakers to want to explore their earlier movies, particularly one who’s put out, like, 40 of them.
Although lots of them feature him as a hero who’s an extension of his antsy, bespectacled self, that job instead goes to Owen Wilson, who’s a worthy candidate for a character like Gil. Apparently, the City of Lights isn’t as exciting for his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her liberal-loathing parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy) as it is for him, given that his affection for it is such that he likes to stroll through the streets in the rain. Apart from that, he’ll go on and on about the cultural icons who congregated there in the ‘20s, though he knows his debut novel can’t compare with what any of them did – especially since he’s not even done with the first draft. An acquaintance named Paul (Michael Sheen) tells him he’d be glad to have a look, but Gil couldn’t imagine collaborating with a guy who’s so arrogant that he can’t get through the Rodin Museum without challenging one of the guides (Carla Bruni).
It’s clear why Gil enjoys Paris better alone, but curiosity gets the best of him when midnight arrives and a bunch of strangers in an antique car tell him to come along. He winds up at a bar where he bumps into Zelda (Alison Pill), who introduces him to her husband Scott (Tom Hiddleston). When Gil comments that their names would make them the brunt of lots of jokes, they look as if they don’t have a clue what’s so funny about names like Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
All the same, they enjoy his company enough to let him get to know Ernest (Corey Stoll), who believes a friend named Gertrude (Kathy Bates) might critique Gil’s book. She’s already giving advice to Pablo (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), whose girlfriend Adriana (Marion Cotillard) becomes rather fond of Gil.
Not counting Adriana, Gil’s new friends are internationally famous, although it doesn’t look as if that’s dawned on them just yet, considering the era he’s found himself in. He probably feels like he’s in one of Salvador’s (Adrien Brody) paintings – you know, the one with the weird clocks.
If this seems a little light on details, it’s because much of the film’s appeal comes from the way it catches you off guard with one magical discovery after another. Do you suppose Paris is like that, too?
This article was originally published on AllMediaNY.com