In the very Woody Allen-esque comedy-drama Midnight in Paris, coincidentally written and directed by Woody Allen, Owen Wilson plays an awkward, curious man visiting, coincidentally, Paris, who would have been played by Woody Allen if the actor-director hadn't finally figured out that audiences don't want to see him flirting with young women anymore. Hailed as one of Allen's finest movies in years, Midnight in Paris is a well done little movie. Nothing more, nothing less.
Wilson plays Gil, a screenwriter who is trying to write his first book while in Paris, but keeps getting distracted as he's dragged from one uninteresting part of the city to the next by his fiancée (played by Rachel McAdams), who dismisses everything he says in favor of her seemingly more sophisticated friend Paul (Michael Sheen). Frustrated, he takes to wandering the streets of Paris at night, and gets sucked through a time portal where he meets the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, among others.
I would have liked Midnight in Paris more if not for two reasons: the movie hadn't been hyped up so much, and were I sophisticated enough to know more about the various characters Gil meets. There are a lot of inside jokes that flew over my head; I passively chuckle to convince others I am more knowledgeable than I am, but I don't understand them. As a result, the various exchanges with historical literary figures are amusing, but not much more.
On a positive note, Wilson does an excellent job taking over for Allen. Ten years ago, Gil is a role Allen would have played himself; I never realized it until now, but Wilson's style of humor is surprisingly similar to Allen's. He's the perfect replacement and hopefully the two will work together on future projects.
The rest of the cast is less interesting, primarily because their characters, like most in Woody Allen films, are caricatures. McAdams plays the snobby, demeaning fiancée Gil is destined to dump; Sheen is the snotty intellectual. Marion Cotillard is pretty good, but the circumstances of her on-screen relationship with Wilson keeps the audience an arm's length away.
Midnight in Paris is mildly entertaining and, as far as Woody Allen's recent movies go, pretty good, but there's nothing that sets it apart from a dozen other projects he's done over the years.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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