Movie review: Midnight in Paris
Just a little past my bedtime.
Life is so unfair. The fact is I think Woody Allen is a degenerate creep (and coming from me, that’s saying a lot) and would love nothing more than to trash his latest picture. However, even going into this flick with my hackles pre-raised, it was a funny and charming experience. Woody managed to not insert himself into the film in any way, which I think helped me forget what a perv he is.
I’m not saying the film is a cinema masterpiece. I’m also not a fan of French culture, so the whole “Paris is the most romantic city on the planet” thing is lost on me (if you really want romance check out Bakersfield, California). As far as I can see, the entire city is comprised of cobblestones and murky fountains. However, the film is entertaining and fun, if a little slow at times.
The story is of Gil (Owen Wilson), a Hollywood script writer who dreams of writing a novel and of living in Paris in the 1920’s. He is in Paris with his bitchy fiance Inez (the pretty damned hot Rachel McAddams) and her parents on some kind of ill defined business trip. He feels his contribution to the literary world is less than impressive (and as a movie reviewer who sees a lot of the crappy scripts being churned out of Hellywood I can’t disagree with him) and wants to do more than just be fabulously wealthy. Inez is the 100% stereotypical So Cal materialistic bitch who only wants to spent a ton of money on French stuff (18,000 Euros for a chair? Give me a break) in a desperate attempt to add culture to her bland, pathetic life. At night Gil wanders around the city and, at exactly midnight, is somehow transported to the 1920s.
There he parties with some of the greatest artist and writers of the age, most notably Ernest Hemmingway. Somehow they all speak English, which is convenient as for a guy who has dreamed of living in Paris for years he has done very little to learn French (ever heard of Rosetta Stone?). Some of them are expatriates, but a lot just seem to know enough English to get by. They all seem to spend every night drinking, driving, and smoking. He meets his dream woman (Marion Cotillard, the wife from Inception) and has a sort of romance with her. He also gets Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) to read and critique his manuscript. Meanwhile his fiance is partying with a really annoying know-it-all (doesn’t he realize that I am the final authority on all things cultural?) and his future father-in-law hires a PI to find out where he goes every night in a relatively innocuous sub plot. Paris hijinks ensues, both in the 1920s and present. Gil evolves as a human being. A lot of alcohol gets drunk. A lot of literary references, some subtle, some not so much, get dropped.
The stars. The movie was entertaining and intelligently written. One star. Woody Allen resisted the urge to insert himself into the movie (how many bumbling old timid stereotypical Jewish men can we watch in a lifetime?). One star. Most of the supporting characters were extremely entertaining, particularly Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. One star. The film work was excellent. Paris was shot brilliantly and the lighting really added to the contrast between 1920s Paris and modern Paris. One star. All of the women (except Kathy Bates, I guess) were pretty damned hot. Even the tour guide. One star. Woody never attempted to explain the time travel mechanic, which in another film would probably infuriate me but in this one was pretty much required. One star. Charming. One star. No forced attempt to add entirely unnecessary action or chase scenes to make it more appealing to the morons out there. One star. Overall a good experience. One star. Total: nine stars.
Now the black holes. While I appreciate having a specific style, if you had not told me this was a Woody Allen film at the beginning I would have known it within the first ten minutes. You can almost hear Woody reading out some of the dialog. One black hole. Of all the characters, Owen Wilson as the protagonist was the most annoying and worst performance. His laid back California dude-bro attitude did not really enhance the character, and in scenes where he was supposed to show some kind of excitement (obviously his most difficult performances) you could almost see him flick the activation switch to go from deadpan to excited deadpan. I find him to be the Ambien of actors. One black hole. The pacing needed work. There were scenes that seemed to drag on at times, and other scenes that ended abruptly just as I was getting into them. Also, the repetitive nature of the night after night party took on a Groundhog Day effect that slowed the film down. One black hole. With the exception of Gil, we never got to spend enough time with any of the characters to really appreciate them, even when it was painfully obvious that the character was really interesting and I for one wanted to learn more. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
Nothing else really hit the irksome category, although I did find the final romance came out of pretty much nowhere.
So a grand total of five stars. Is it fun and worth watching? Yes. Should you see it in the theater? No, unless you really love Paris and want to see it on a bigger screen. Good date movie? Absolutely, as long as your date doesn’t hate Woody Allen for marrying his adopted daughter. If she is cool with him then you could score some points for being sensitive and intellectual. The real question is how will it stand when compared to his other 200 films. Honestly, not particularly well. It’s no Bullets over Broadway or Match Point. I would rather see Sleeper to be honest. In a couple years it will be just another film he did; worth your time, but not worth gushing about.
By the way, I am still trying to get the whole video review thing going, but as usual have run into some technical issues. I think I am going to have to start over. Also I have a huge trip coming up Thursday and won’t have my iMac with me, so it might be a while. Meanwhile I am scrambling to get all the new Star Trek t shirts uploaded, and have gotten into the minor shows like DS9 and Voyager. I might see another film tomorrow and write something, but who knows? I still need to finish all those Star Trek movies.