MOVIE REVIEW: Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen channeled through Owen Wilson, who channels Hemingway
The best movie poster of the year belongs to this film, Midnight in Paris. The top half is van Gogh's painting, Starry Night. The bottom half has Owen Wilson walking the streets of Paris.
Woody Allen had tackled New York so often on film; he then went to England, and then hit Barcelona. This is his love letter to France, and from the dazzling, low-key opening with various street scenes with a jazz score, to the list of literary greats that pop up, you too might fall for Paris.
Midnight in Paris is about a Hollywood screenwriter that makes a good living pumping out garbage. He’d prefer being a respected novelist, even if that meant being poor and philosophizing outside a café in France, with baguettes on the table. He parties with Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) with wife Zelda (Alison Pill), and Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody, with the nose and mustache). He also has his book edited by Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates). Listening to Hemingway talk about hunting and wanting to box anyone within earshot, are scenes that I wish shined a bit more. Actress Rachel McAdams is adorable, and Marion Cotillard (who performed well in Le Vie en Rose, and so blah in Inception) was great as the possible love interest of Wilson (and Pablo Picasso). Allen always has strong casts, and it helps when you get a script like this that can use the assistance.
Is it the best Woody Allen movie ever? Not by a long shot, but it’s certainly pleasant enough. I had a smile on my face the entire time I was watching; it's not a bad way to spend a few hours. Midnight in Paris is not just for the intellectuals, but I’m guessing it won’t do well at the San Diego movie box office, as the cars aren’t shooting at each other. It was written and directed by Allen, and has Owen Wilson playing the neurotic Allen character. It took Wilson awhile to get into this role, but he worked out nicely, and it’s fun to watch Wilson deal with his conservative parents (Kurt Fuller is good as the snotty father). And how could you not love that nasally voice, when he says "You’re a surrealist. I’m a regular guy" to Salvador Dali?
Allen likes to repeat himself in movies, and this is no different. The scene where Wilson puts an intellectual in his place, played perfectly by Michael Sheen, is almost just as strong as the scene in Annie Hall, where Allen overhears a pseudo-intellectual talk about a playwright he actually knows little about.
There are lots of cute one-liners, but not as many huge laughs. Midnight in Paris does have the second best use of Cole Porter songs (the first still belongs to Mr. Holland’s Opus), and this movie will go well with the new Albert Brooks novel, 2030.
Midnight in Paris is a decent movie that both the intellectuals and Philistines will enjoy equally; a fun story about the grass always being greener, the lights always being brighter... in the City of Lights.