Let it be known that I just wrote for an hour and subsequently deleted all of it. Prefacing a review with ten paragraphs of commentary on the criticism of Woody Allen just didn't seem appropriate. But, if anything, it illustrates my appreciation of the man. He has no rival.
But no one wants to hear about my crush on Woody Allen. Actually, I'm sure a lot of you do (pervs). But you should also know that my love for Midnight in Paris does not stem from unconditional affection for the man. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger was quite dreadful. Midnight in Paris is just a wonderful, light-hearted comedy.
Owen Wilson's nose is as obnoxiously bent as ever, but he's perfect as what has come to be known as Woody's 'avatar.' He delivers Woody's dialogue well--though perhaps not as well as Will Ferrell did--for one of today's best known actors, and never nears obnoxiousness as Jason Biggs and Kenneth Branagh did. Although, in their defense, they did play more neurotic roles (in Anything Else and Celebrity, respectively). There's no neurosis here, just nostalgia.
Owen's character dreams of living in 1920's Paris, while his fiancee (Rachel McAdams) just wants to live in Malibu. The only annoyance of the film stems from the dichotomy of this relationship. One comes to wonder how the two ever managed to make it to the first date, yet alone engagement. Their exchanges are wearing, although Wilson and his father-in-law-to-be do get in a few choice barbs.
In fact, the plot overall is less than you would expect from an Allen film. Wilson's is the only fully-formed character, especially since we all know that he's just Woody Allen with Owen Wilson's idiosyncrasies. He longs to live in a better time, in a better place, and of course: he wants to write a novel. Everyone else is a caricature, which works in this comedy, although Woody's recent work makes me long for Mia Farrow or Diane Keaton. Listening to Rachel McAdams attempt words with more than a few syllables can be nauseating.
As a result, the romance between Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard never really matters. Neither does a suicide attempt by Zelda Fitzgerald. The revelation that everyone is yearning for a Golden Age (that never really existed) is executed relatively well, but if you want insight into your fear of death or the plights of mankind there are other Woody Allen films for that. Midnight in Paris exists for laughs, and it does not falter.
The splendor of Midnight in Paris sparks from the titular moments of the film, in which a drunk Wilson finds himself in the streets of Paris at midnight. A cab of Frenchmen pick him up and take him to a party. When introduced to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Wilson quickly--and perhaps too easily--realizes that he is in his definitive golden age: Paris in the 1920's. Here he meets a variety of his literary heroes, among others; Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel, Cole Porter, and more. Hemingway is particularly amusing, and introduces Wilson to Gertrude Stein, who agrees to read his novel.
Hemingway dispenses advice to Wilson on being an effective writer and the courage of manhood, and is seconded in entertainment value only be Adrian Brody's portrayal of Salvador Dali, which results in the funniest scene in recent history. Verbal comedy is something I can't effectively convey without endless quotation, which would be largely ineffective out of context. And since I expect all of you to see this on my recommendation, I wouldn't want to steal away the joy of spontaneity.
Fantastical elements often bring a whimsical charm to Woody films, and Midnight in Paris is not the exception. Any fan of Allen should be pleased, as should newbies--so long as Wilson's presence doesn't cause Frat Pack expectations.
On a side note, I'm watching Anything Else right now, and I still say it's one of the most quotable of Allen's recent films. There are also at least five moments in dialogue that are reincarnate in Midnight in Paris. Also,
Jason Biggs isn't that bad.