One can’t help but become enraptured by cities when watching Woody Allen films. Allen originally filled his films with adoring shots of New York, but in recent years, he has taken a European turn. Allen’s latest film, “Midnight in Paris,” continues his urban obsession. Witty dialogue, fresh faces and, above all, the city of Paris itself, transform what we love about Allen’s old films into a new, divinely romantic comedy.
Owen Wilson, new to Allen’s repertoire, plays Gil, a hopelessly idealistic American novelist. Gil is a classic Allen character—the slightly awkward artist, reminiscent of Allen’s character in many of his older films. Wilson plays Gil wonderfully with convincing innocence and curiosity.
Gil and his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams, another new face for Allen), crash her father’s business trip to Paris. Beautiful boulevards, antique markets and Paris in the rain all fascinate Gil. But Inez has no patience for Gil’s ramblings. The audience immediately dislikes Inez, a character less like the good girl of “Wedding Crashers,” McAdams’ last stint with Wilson, and more like Regina George of “Mean Girls.”
One beautiful night, a lost and slightly tipsy Gil sits on a stone staircase overlooking a Paris boulevard. As the clock strikes twelve, a carriage jostles past and the passengers beckon Gil inside. In a fantasy turn, Allen transports Gil back in time. Together with Gil, the audience enters an artist’s dream, swooning as we meet Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and other artists in glamorous 1920s Paris.
Not only Gil, but Allen, too, takes a dose of nostalgia with “Midnight in Paris.” Allen revisits the time travel of “Sleeper” (1973), the pre-marital questions of “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (2008), and the struggling novelist of “Manhattan” (1979).
As Cole Porter’s “Let’s Fall in Love” plays, the audience falls not only for Paris, but for Allen all over again.