Woody Allen’s latest revels in, cautions against nostalgia
Midnight In Paris
★ ★ ★ (three of five stars)
Rated PG13/94 min.
I’ve always wondered why Maui audiences don’t connect with Woody Allen films. Maybe it’s his East Coast sense of humor—so foreign to our tiny island—or maybe it’s just because a lot of his recent movies haven’t been very good.
Whatever the reason, if you are a fan of the Wood Man and happen to live on Maui, you’d better catch his latest release quickly, because it probably won’t stick around too long.
Although perhaps Midnight In Paris will be an exception. It stars part-time Valley Isle resident Owen Wilson—and it’s pretty darned good.
Wilson stars as Gil, a Hollywood screenwriter vacationing in Paris with his demanding fiancée (Rachel McAdams, cast against type as an unlikable shrew). Gil is struggling to write a real novel after years of authoring insipid Hollywood schlock; his time in Paris is meant to re-charge his creative impulses. While taking a stroll alone one night, Gil finds himself magically transported to the Paris of his dreams, when Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot and the Golden Age of art and literature were in full swing. He soon finds his abilities as a writer tested as his lust for this bygone era becomes an obsession.
The film kicks off with a lovely sequence that calls to mind the artful opening of Manhattan, one of Allen’s best films, and sets a peppy, whimsical tone. Wilson, meanwhile, underplays his laid-back stoner persona and gives a fine, keenly observed performance.
This will work best for literature and European art history buffs. Adrien Brody’s performance as Salvador Dali is a riot if you know much about the artist and the same goes for jokes directed at Luis Bunuel, Hemingway and Pablo Picasso. Though some references will whizz over all but the most cultured heads, romantics and film lovers will eat this up.
Allen understands that we all have an era we call our own, a nostalgic place that brings us comfort and inspiration. But this is clearly a cautionary tale. Don’t hide in the past, the filmmaker warns, at the expense of the present. It’s a rich idea, but the movie feels unfinished. The ending is nice enough, yet stops short of a real conclusion.
This is a great date movie for people with smart dates. No, it doesn’t rank among Allen’s masterpieces, but for what it is it’s enjoyable. After all, Allen would be the first to tell you, you shouldn’t let what’s come before prevent you from enjoying what’s happening right now. ■