Midnight in Paris

6 Jun

Title: Midnight in Paris
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Starring: 
Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Corey Stoll, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Tom Hiddleston, Alison Pill, Léa Seydoux
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, some sexual references and smoking
Runtime: 
100 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 
92%

The first five months of 2011 have already passed as I write this review on June 5th, and I still haven’t watched a single perfect film with a 2011 release date, not one worthy of an A+. However, I’m an unapologetic fanboy of Woody Allen, I’ve watched every single one of his films and his is one of the most unique voices in modern cinema, and one that really resonates with me, so I had high hopes going into his latest, Midnight in Paris, which was the opening selection for this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

People haven’t been exactly kind towards the films Mr. Allen has made in the past decade, or at least certainly not as embracing as they have been with his past efforts.. And I can definitely see why, even though I have personally loved quite a few of those. I mean, the decade started off with 2000’s Small Time Crooks, which was actually pretty good. Then came 2001’s The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, which was okay at best. 2002 saw Hollywood Ending, which was just as mildly decent. In 2003 he did Anything Else, which I actually sort of loved and was listed by Quentin Tarantino as one of his 20 favorites films since 1992, but that most critics didn’t really embraced. 2004 was Melinda and Melinda which was totally forgettable. So, you see, his first five films of the decade were all just okay, nothing spectacular, and people started wondering if the master had lost his touch.

But then came 2005’s Match Point. This would be the first in his string of collaborations with Scarlett Johansson, and would be his best received film in years, both critically and commercially. I absolutely adored that film, it was actually my fourth favorite film of 2005 (behind Sin City, The Squid and the Whale and V for Vendetta) and it seemed to me as though that film reinvigorated Mr. Allen, and as though changing his beloved New York City for London was a great move for him. It also seemed as though he was of the same opinion, going on record to say that Match Point could arguably be the best film he’s ever made (which it isn’t, but it definitely is pretty perfect) and choosing to venture outside of New York for the most part of his career since.

He stayed in London and with Ms. Johansson for 2006’s Scoop. Now, that film is actually one of the few of his I just don’t seem to get, and I felt it was a huge step down from Match Point. 2007 saw him release Cassandra’s Dream, yet again staying in London and now employing actors mostly from the UK like his leading men, Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell, and even though most critics were lukewarm towards it I actually thought it was excellent, and since I saw it in 2008, when it was released in the U.S., I ranked it in that year-end best-of list and it came in at #47.

But on that very same 2008 list there was another effort by Mr. Allen, his terrific Vicky Cristina Barcelona which was my 12th favorite film of that year and saw Mr. Allen now choosing to go to Barcelona, reteam with Ms. Johansson and add Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz to the mix. The result was superb, I gave it one a perfect A+ and loved absolutely everything about it, as did most of the world, with the film grossing a very respectable $96 million on a $15 million budget, the film getting great reviews, and Ms. Cruz winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as the volatile María Elena. After that was 2009’s Whatever Works, which saw him going back to New York to team up with Larry David and which was unimpressive. And last year saw him release You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, which saw him going back to London and to which I gave a B to.

The above was an exhaustive review of the last decade of Woody Allen films, and if you’re still reading this then thank you for bearing with me on that, it’s just that I wanted to illustrate two things. One is that even if some people have been critical of his last decade, I still think that the guy has turned in two perfect films in that ten year span (Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and another seriously good one (Cassandra’s Dream). And two is that, more importantly, for the last ten years the guy has released a movie a year (and that streak actually goes all the way back to 1982), no matter what, and even if they haven’t been entirely consistent in quality there’s not one in there that’s an all-out disaster. All of this coming from a guy that started directing films in the mid-sixties and that turned 70 during the last decade, it’s just tremendous stuff.

I’ve spent pretty much the usual length of one of my reviews just talking about the past decade or so of Mr. Allen’s films and not saying one word about Midnight in Paris. I started out this reviews saying that I was still looking for my first perfect film of 2011, and saying that I had hopes for Midnight in Paris to become just that. Now, it wasn’t, but it came seriously close. Honestly, if you had been clamoring for another extremely good Woody Allen film, this is the one for you. Even if for some reason you weren’t as huge on Match Point or Vicky Cristina Barcelona as I was, you can count on this one to really win you back. Midnight in Paris is just Woody Allen being Woody Allen and working his usual magic in the best of ways, delivering a film that’s funny and charming and everything you’d want it to be.

And really, what else do you want? Woody Allen is not one of those writer-directors you want going and experimenting new ways, they guy doesn’t have to reinvent himself because he’s still the very best at what he does, and he’s being doing that for over four decades now and if Midnight in Paris shows one thing is that he’s not even close to slowing down. Yes, the font he always uses for his title cards is still there, jazz music is still there, and the main character is still ultimately some sort of version of Mr. Allen himself, but it feels fresher than it has in quite some time.

Owen Wilson plays the Woody Allen role of Gil here, a wealthy screenwriter who actually doesn’t like writing the superficial stuff he does and would much rather be a novelist. He visits Paris with his fiancée, played by the stunning Rachel McAdams, and while she’s totally just all about the shopping and superficial stuff, he falls in love with the city, like anyone would, and wonders about the artistic greats that once walked its streets. What Mr. Wilson does incredibly well is making Gil his own character to play, and not playing him like some sort of Woody Allen imitation like so many have unfortunately done before him, he instead makes Gil a very Owen Wilson character with the Woody sensibilities that were written for him, and it seriously works.

The title of the film comes from the most magical moments in it, when Gil discovers that at midnight he can somehow unexplainably go back to the 1920’s Paris he has loved so much for all of his life. Shot by Darius Khondji (an Oscar-nominee for his brilliant work on Evita) Midnight in Paris feels like a terrific homage to the city of lights, and when you see Mr. Allen go back all those decades you find him producing some of the exquisitely funny and pensive scenes that he’s produced in a while. And when you look at the cast he has lined up for Bop Decameron, his next, you can’t help but smile and think that the master’s back firing on all cylinders.

Grade: A

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3 Responses to “Midnight in Paris”

  1. vinnieh July 2, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Really good review, I haven’t seen the film but I will have to watch it now after reading this informative post.

    • ArtfullyBedraggled July 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

      It’s terrific. Let me know what you think of it when you do!

      • vinnieh July 3, 2012 at 9:30 am #

        Thanks for replying, will let you know what I think. You should check out my blog if you get the chance.

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