The main character in Woody Allen’s latest film “Midnight in Paris” is a writer who has become fed up with a career as a “hack Hollywood screenwriter” and seems determined to turn his brief vacation in Paris into a permanent one.
Played by Owen Wilson, Gil is a character whose current occupation has gotten the best of him, even if others view him as a great success. Gil describes the type of films he writes as being “forgetful,” so it’s funny that “Midnight in Paris” has been released in a summer movie season where his scripts surely would have thrived.
“Midnight in Paris” doesn’t quite have the legs to stand with Allen’s best work, but it certainly isn’t a forgettable venture like his last two films – 2010’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” and 2009’s “Whatever Works.”
“Midnight” is very much in the vein of Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” which blended fantastical elements with Allen’s witty storytelling sensibilities. While that earlier film dealt with a character whose world was taken over by the films she loved, Gil is transported through time to a period in Paris he romanticizes.
The film features several appearances from notable actors like Kathy Bates, Adrian Brody and Corey Stoll, who all relish in the opportunity to portray famous, intellectual, creative types ranging from Gertrude Stein to Salvador Dali.
Wilson makes Gil a likable, neurotic character in the vein of many leading characters in Allen’s films, but there are certainly enough Wilson characteristics added to make Gil the most intriguing leading man in any Allen film during the past decade.
Gil’s character believes that had he lived in Paris during the 1920s, perhaps, his life would have been far better than it is now. Gil’s longing to follow his true artistic ambitions of writing a great novel keep him from succumbing to the faux optimism of the people around him.
The film’s final lesson, that perhaps all our ideas of a “Golden Age” are simply just fantasy is an important one and Allen makes due on his title as one of the best filmmakers still working today. While time may have worn down the Allen formula, “Midnight” proves that time can also help propel it to interesting and delightful new heights.
Allen has been churning out a film practically every year since 1971, and the consistent quality of the films is truly admirable. “Midnight” is light and enjoyable, but certainly not forgettable.
With a summer film season that has been light on movie magic and whimsy but heavy on bloated budgets and special effects, “Midnight in Paris” offers a satisfying alternative – and the fact that audiences are responding to it so well is very reassuring.