Midnight in Paris (2011) Review

Midnight in Paris is a story about love and Paris, set in various Golden Ages. It is the quintessential date movie. It has romance, beautiful scenery and a sense of humor about life that only the truly whimsical can channel at will.

The moment audiences see Woody Allen’s vision of Paris, its magic is revealed. The city is lush with vegetation and green space. Ancient structures and balustrades line wide cobble-stoned boulevards. Tinier streets and pedways are dwarfed by luscious behemoths of artfully designed stone and mortar architecture of centuries passed.

Gil, an exceptionally esoteric Owen Wilson, is in Paris with his fiancée and her parents. He finds himself derailed of any inclination outside of finding and celebrating the city-that-was – his ideal of a Golden Era, 1920s Paris. After strolling through the city alone and pleasantly inebriated after dark, he is offered the ride of a lifetime when he steps into a motor-car packed full of strangers at the stroke of midnight.

Viewers are along for the ride with Gil. It’s as though the entire audience is crammed into the backseat of the antiquated automobile. Half listening, half eavesdropping on the conversation, it becomes clear that this party line is headed for fun. Everyone is invited and will be welcome upon arrival.

When the driver brings the car to a stop and empties its cargo at a soiree, it seems that Gil has arrived at a costume party. He is welcomed by revelers who are completely without concern or interest for his state of under dress and are more preoccupied with the interesting aspiring writer that he is. For, Gil is in Paris to complete his first novel.

Gil finds himself the Favorite among the parties’ elite and soon travels with his new friends across Paris to join a better gathering; one of the intellectually and artistically superior. He is introduced to great writers whose collected works have more than impressed him. Naturally, these are artists of a caliber not easily met in his native America, if at all.

Midnight in Paris is chock full with Parisienne melodies, history, anecdotes and the type of cast expected to incorporate a Woody Allen comedy. Rachel McAdams is Inez, Gil’s fiancée, who is in Paris to support her parents as they venture into business in the City of Lights.  She and her parents are wholly unimpressed with the city, the people and the culture. When a surprise visit from friends offers Inez the opportunity to avoid the undesirable aspects of Paris, Gil is presented the chance to sojourn without interruption.

It is here, in the company of strangers that Gil knows the courage required to finalize his novel. He has reached the point of trusting another person to read and critique his work. He also realizes the truth behind his fascination with the Paris of the bygone early 20th Century.

In the most flattering of homages, Carla Bruni returns to the screen in the role of a museum tour guide. She has the daunting task of keeping the information spread about her inspirational city accurate. No easy feat when holding one’s own against acclaimed and revered traveling lecturer and friend to Inez, Paul, the insurmountable Michael Sheen.

But all is not roses between Gil and the parents of his betrothed. Her suspicious father has him followed. A private detective has put the word out about Gil’s midnight wanderings. Unease is growing between Inez and him, and the novel is nearing completion with a little help from his friends.

Woody Allen has crafted a perfectly sweet and satisfying salute to precious fantasy and innocent daydreams. A stellar cast of serious emotional heavyweights light the screen on fire. Each performer delivers the most sincere interpretation of character and intent.

Kathy Bates as Gert is sassy and possessing of a spunk full of Sister-Mother love. The beautiful and torn Adriana is no less than a treat to behold in the steady calm of Marion Cotillard. The Fitzgerald’s, Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston, are nothing short of endearing as a young couple whose passion for each other is almost too consuming. But, it is Corey Stoll who takes a turn at narcissism and vulnerability as the totally stud worthy, Ernest.

This is the early summer choice for hand holding, foot tapping and enjoying a giggle with your favorite sweetheart. It has style, panache and a respect for the simple frills in life that make every moment matter.