Right in the midst of a blockbuster spring filled with superpowers, Spandex and wizards at war, the new Woody Allen movie was the last thing any of us expected to defy the odds, garner rave reviews and make a splash that's only getting bigger by the day. So, now that it did well enough to migrate out of the indie theaters and earn a wide release on July 10, we figured it was about time we saw this little underdog for ourselves to see what's got everyone buying tickets.
In a nutshell, shame on us for ever doubting Woody.
Hit the jump for the full review for the little movie that could.
What's It About?
'Midnight in Paris' is about a Hollywood screenwriter, Gil, who goes to visit the City of Light with his fiancee, Inez, and her parents in order to get away, see the sights and hopefully write a novel. After falling in love with place in all of five seconds, he brings up the idea of moving there but his wife-to-be isn't so enthusiastic. Things get interesting when the couple bumps into one of Inez's old crushes, who starts trying to rekindle things with Inez and in between getting into intellectual pissing matches with Gil at every opportunity. Eventually, the struggling novelist decides that this isn't exactly his scene, so he goes out for an after-dinner stroll one evening, gets lost in a maze of back alleys, and stumbles upon the late night of a lifetime when the clock strikes 12.
No, not by a long shot, but that's about as much as you're gonna get out of us.
If you Googled it enough, we're sure you could easily find out the specifics that very much play into why this is quickly turning into one of Woody Allen's most financially successful movies and one of his best movies, period, but that's no way to see this. Since we were fortunate to go in without any heads-up as to what was going to happen or what it was really about, you're just gonna have to trust us that we're doing you a favor. After all was said and done, we couldn't imagine having seen it any other way. So, with that said and without giving away the details, here's why we're head-over-heels for 'Midnight in Paris':
For starters, it's an unabashed love letter to one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Well, you've probably guessed that already, but even for us jaded New Yorkers, it really is something to marvel at. The architecture, the music, the language, and all that darn wine are just a few out of a hundred other reasons that make the French capital so enchanting -- a perfect setting for the larger-than-life stuff we're treated to. Doesn't matter if you've never been, or if you still insist on ordering "freedom fries," you'll be fighting the urge to get the first flight over after being introduced to Paris and the souls who call it home.
On top of that, it's just so well-written. Granted, this is one of those movies that we wouldn't be surprised to see turn up on Stuff White People Like, but you could pretty much say that about any Woody Allen movie. Anyway, it's absolutely riddled with hilarious dialogue, there's at least one truly inspired time-travel-y scene that brought us right back to the good ol' days of 'Bananas,' and it's actually quite insightful too. Aside from the scenery and such, it's ultimately a big meditation on living life in the present and appreciating the time you live in rather than pining for the days of old; it's both universal and entirely relatable. It's a message that you don't hear much from movies, and it'll make you want to kick yourself for ever saying, "They don't make music / movies / novels / Hot Pockets like they used to." All right, maybe not that last one so much, but you get the idea.
It's a very fun and whimsical script that Allen's put together, one that takes plenty of liberties with logic and history, but then again, that's the whole appeal. Don't bother getting caught up in questions and getting all nitpicky over this or you'll miss the point entirely, and that would be sad.
But How's the Cast?
Just fantastic, especially when it comes to Owen Wilson as our Francophile of the hour, Gil Penders. For a guy who's gotten pigeonholed over the years as the token likable, goofy friend who means well but always ends up causing trouble, it's great to see him take on a more serious tone and just nail it. He's still very likable, only now it doesn't seem like he's putting on an act. It's a blast to watch his slack-jawed reactions to everything going on around him, especially since the audience is very much on the level in that regard.
'Midnight in Paris' also has some wonderful cameos from A-listers and up-and-comers alike, but that's kinda the best part, so we won't ruin that for you either.
The only issue we've got is with Rachel McAdams' character and her damn parents. While they do serve their purpose in creating a slow boil of tension toward Gil, the more they get on his case, the more everything they do feels forced. It's like watching an episode of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' where the people in Larry David's life are just so set in their ridiculous ways and cemented in their opinions that they ultimately come off more like caricatures than real people. Not the cast's fault or anything, they just play the kind of people who would make you want punch a wall long before things come to a head, and that might not have been the best approach for this crew.
And Michael Sheen is fine as McAdams' holier-than-thou crush, but who are we kidding -- these are miniscule complaints in light of everything else that we flat-out loved.
Is It Worth Seeing?
To tell you the truth, it's the best movie we've seen so far this year.
Part of that might have to do with how unexpected it all was, but even without that big bonus, this is still a fantastic movie from head to toe that swept us off our feet within the first five minutes and left us smiling from ear-to-ear for days after. It's the music, it's the story, it's the city, it's the acting ... it's the whole magical package that made for the best time we've had in a theater all year. It's hard to say where 'Midnight in Paris' ranks among Allen's outrageously prolific and accomplished body of work (he's more or less written and directed a new movie every single year since 1969 and won three Oscars to boot), but as far as 2011 is concerned, this one's sitting pretty.
9/10 Moveable Feasts