There is no doubt that Woody Allen is a very problematic figure, but his genius as a film maker is undisputed. Midnight in Paris is a film that I was not aware of, a film that was heralded as a return to form in 2011, and which I can confirm, is a stylish delight, with a fabulous cast including a wide range of cameos from some of Hollywood’s finest.
Owen Wilson stars as Gil Pender, a successful but disillusioned screenwriter holidaying in Paris with his prickly fiance Inez. Gil adores Paris and would love to move there, but Inez is an all round American girl and is totally against this. The already shaky vacation is made worse when they couple meet up with Inez’s friends Paul and Carole. Paul is an annoying, patronising bore but Inez adores him. After a drunken night with the other couple Gil decides to take a walk in the Paris night, but, on the stroke of midnight, a vintage car pulls alongside him inviting him to a party. The party has taken Gil back in time, and is filled with some of the most notable figures of the 1920s – Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Cole Porter amongst others. This is the start of Gil’s midnight adventures which will include Picasso, Dali and Gertrude Stein. But when Gil starts to fall in love with Picasso’s muse Adriana, life in two time frames begins to become very complicated – where does Gil want to be? And with whom?
This is a gloriously beautiful film that really comes alive in the 1920s scenes, which are star studded, featuring the likes of Tom Hiddleston, Marion Cotillard, Adrian Brody and Kathy Bates. There is both sadness and humour in those scenes, from saving the life of Zelda, to an hilarious encounter with Salvador Dali, Man Ray and Louis Bunuel where he discusses his issue of loving two women in different times. And I love the realisation that no matter what era you are living in, you will always look back at the past as the real Belle Epoque.
Owen Wilson is always watchable and has a lazy charm that works so well in this film. He is well matched with Rachel McAdams, who is almost a grown up version of her Mean Girls character here. Michael Sheen is also a hoot as pretentious know-it-all Paul, the scene where Gil corrects him on his knowledge of Adriana and a particular painting and its circumstances is an absolute joy.
Midnight in Paris is a film to savour. You can currently find it on Netflix.