Movie Review: Midnight in Paris (2011)

January 5, 2012 in Best Of, Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

It’s 2012 already but I’m still trying to finish off my 2011 movie reviews so I can do my annual top 10 list.

I still have a quite a few to go, but I’m pretty sure Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is going to be on that list. Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates and co, Midnight in Paris is one of those rare, magical delights that I just couldn’t help but fall in love with.

Even though I had seen a couple of trailers, I mistakenly thought Midnight in Paris was one of those lazy, forgettable romantic “dramedies” with a bit of predictable quirkiness and lots of pretty scenes of Paris.  While it is indeed a quasi-love letter to the beautiful city, I couldn’t have been more wrong about everything else.  Without giving too much away, I would classify it as a “fantastical” romantic comedy.

It tells the story of Gil (Wilson), an engaged Hollywood scriptwriter working on his first novel, who travels to Paris on a vacation with his fiance Inez (McAdams) and her wealthy parents.  By chance, they bump into Inez’s pompous, insufferable friend Paul (Sheen), who loves to grab the spotlight and take the wind out of Gil’s sails.  Feeling rejected and dejected, Gil decides take a solo stroll through the streets of Paris one evening, thus beginning an unexpected and mystical adventure  involving a whole cast of fascinating characters.  I didn’t know about this aspect of the film so it came to me as a wonderful surprise, and being a writer made it even more glorious.

Despite the scandals in his personal life, it’s hard to not admire Woody Allen as genius filmmaker.  He has made some pretty decent but flawed films in recent years (Whatever Works, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Scoop and Match Point, to name a few), but Midnight in Paris has to be one of his best in quite some time.  The characters are rich and the dialogue is sublime.  The one-liners are hilarious.  And the idea itself is brilliant.  At just 94 minutes, the film is short and sweet, allowing a swift pace.  It might not be a particularly deep film, but the sweet, light-hearted and wondrous vibe that Allen threads throughout the whole film makes it a joy to watch.

The role of Gil was made for Owen Wilson, and he shines here as the affable, slightly dorky Gil.  McAdams is also very good as the spoiled, irritating finance, and Michael Sheen is, as expected, marvellous as the pseudo-intellectual douchebag Paul.  Marion Cotillard is sexy and alluring, but for me, the one who steals the show in a minor role is French actress Lea Seydoux (who was recently an assassin in MI4).  But with the likes of Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody and French First Lady Carla Bruni, it’s hard to pick any holes in the cast or performances.

Midnight in Paris is by no means a perfect film, but I connected with it in a way I never thought I would.  As far as short, witty, memorable films are concerned, this one is right up there in my personal pantheon.

5 out of 5 stars!