I have a terrible admission to make – something tantamount to blasphemy amongst film lovers. I’m not really a fan of Woody Allen’s films! There’s nothing actually wrong with them per se – they’ve just never done it for me. So why, you might ask, would I review his comedy, Midnight In Paris? Well, firstly I’m always happy to give people another chance, and secondly I love its star, Owen Wilson – he to me is a comic genius. Now, having watched the film, I also love Woody Allen!
The story follows a mysterious ‘incident’ which befalls American writer Gil (Wilson), who is visiting Paris on business with his fiancé Ines (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. After they come across some old friends of Ines who Gil dislikes intensely, he decides to go off one night and wander Paris alone. As he is sitting on some steps ruminating on the misfortunes of life he hears a bell striking midnight. Just as the final chime rings out a vintage Rolls Royce pulls up and a group of young people inside, who appear to be in fancy dress, beckon him to join them in the car. As he gets in and the car drives off, Gil finds that his adventures are only just beginning.
I don’t want to give too much of the film away, because half its fun is how clever and surprisingly fresh the story is. Suffice to say the passengers in the car are not all they seem, and they, along with a vast array of exotic friends, give Gil the impetus to take a chance and do what he has always wanted and not what his ‘boring’ future in-laws think he should. That he wants to give up his career as a highly successful Hollywood screenwriter to follow his dream of being a novelist in Paris may seem hard to believe at first. However, after half an hour in the presence of the airhead Ines and her ghastly mother Helen (a great comic turn from Mimi Kennedy) who is only interested in something if it has a high price tag, you realise that even the Malibu beach house where they plan to live when married wouldn’t be enough compensation for a lifetime in the presence of such uncultured philistines.
Allen is a renowned wit, but his slow style is what often bugs me about his films – they just shamble, gently along. However it’s this very same languid approach which works so well here, perfectly suiting the bohemian lifestyle for which Gil yearns, but is so alien to Ines and her parents. Allen’s acid sharp script highlights perfectly how poles apart Gil and Ines are, as well as adding a manic air to the situations Gil finds himself in – it is here that Wilson’s deft comedic touch comes to the fore in a role Allen would clearly have taken on himself twenty years ago. Watching Midnight in Paris you feel Allen has discovered his perfect matc, and can only hope that this is the first of many collaborations for the duo. Combined with a rhapsodic homage to the beauty of Paris shot in a lush and dreamy palette, and peopled with so many stars (Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, Tom Hiddleston, Marion Cotillard and a surprise appearance by France’s former First Lady Carla Bruni) that you loose count, you never notice ninety five minutes fly past.
Midnight in Paris changed my opinion of Allen, and I can’t wait to explore other films in which he casts his spell of laid back magic next.