To say that I knew what I was getting in to with “Midnight in Paris” is indeed would be a gross error. I had no idea what “Midnight in Paris” would bring me. So for the sake of not ruining what is ultimately a surprise filled comedy drama, I beg you to heed my warning about spoilers as “Midnight in Paris” is such a film that will demand audiences to suspend their belief, but in the meanwhile is typical Woody Allen whimsy. The man has the ability to channel surrealism and fantasy with films like “Zelig” and “Sleeper,” and thankfully “Midnight in Paris” is a return to form. Once again, Allen has lost a lot of his touch with his past films as he no longer spotlights the regular individual, but the glamorous one, but he surmounts such a caveat by delivering a premise in the tradition of the classic Allen pictures. The demented and lively, the ridiculous but existential.
“Midnight in Paris” is very much a relationship dramedy from Allen about two people who want different things out of life. Owen Wilson gives a charming performance as Allen’s stand in named Gil. Gil is an ex-Hollywood screenwriter who wants more from life than glamour and quick cash. He wants to write novels and live an artistically fulfilled life, while his wife to be wants to simply get whatever she can out of her own existence without stopping to smell the roses. Along the way Gil stops at a stoop in Paris and at the strike of twelve is greeted by an old world town car. Its patrons invite him for a ride and a quick drink and their behest goes along for the fun. Little does Gil know he’s stepped in to a hole in time where he’s visited a world of people seemingly inhabited by the likes of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, all of whom invite Gil to know them and exchange musings on life and love with him.
Through this experience, Gil not only gets to associate himself with some of the most influential minds in art and literature of all time, but he manages to discover that there’s more to life than quick cash and materialism. Along the way he also gets a first hand view at hopelessly misplaced geniuses who wish there were more to their life and a fully realized dramedy unfolds. This is basically a time travel feature without the clunky history lessons. Allen doesn’t seek to educate his audiences but offers up a genuinely enticing scenario that most art buffs would love to indulge in. Implementing some truly gifted actors, Allen manifests his own fantasies and longings through folks like the lovely Marion Cotillard and Alison Pill. All the while giving the character Gil something to take with him in his personal life that he can’t get from the superficial shallow individuals around him. We get a glimpse at the artistic playgrounds of the twenties and view what they perhaps were thinking when befriending each other and bouncing ideas off one another.
“Midnight in Paris” is thankfully not an overwhelming melodrama like “Match Point,” but a downbeat and simplistic fantasy piece that Allen likely had his audience in mind with the whole time through the writing process. As an art and literary freak like myself, “Midnight in Paris” is a thrill to watch and surely is something that will have Allen’s followers contemplating on long after the film has ended. Allen has been in a rut lately and it’s nice to see him bounce back with a down to Earth dramedy that doesn’t try too hard to pander to the mainstream. A pleasant viewing experience, “Midnight in Paris” is a surprise treat from Woody Allen who has spent too much energy selling his films to mainstream audiences, when his followers have been waiting in the wings for a return to his prime. With a quaint cast, and unique premise, “Midnight in Paris” is a surefire standout in 2011.