quick review: midnight in paris

Although the initial montage of Paris scenes sets the tone for an homage to the fabled City of Lights, Midnight in Paris is less about satisfying the Parisian tourism office then it is about celebrating the artistic impulse towards inspiration. Inhabiting the role of Woody Allen’s archetypal screen persona, mired in a familial situation of discord thanks to a controlling fiancée and disapproving in-laws, Owen Wilson feels right at home as a successful and self-aware Hollywood hack yearning to unleash his literary ambitions. Much of the film’s humour derives from how much he is unlike his fiancée, played as a superbly wound-up fussbudget by Rachael McAdams, and her friends – Martin Sheen as a pompous, preening pseudo-intellectual is hilariously grating. Very much a West Coast personality – no sign of neurosis here – we squirm and sympathize as Wilson strives to share his love of Paris and art with a woman, and in-laws, caught up in the superficial snobbery of material luxury. 

The surprise comes from a fantasy element that Allen introduces with such finesse and wonder it’s enough to forget the contrivances of his recent films and unfurl the welcome home banner. Wonder is a good word to describe the beautiful filmed Midnight in Paris. An effortless and magical blend of comedy, drama, nostalgia, cautionary tale, and nuanced social criticism, the film is peppered with a strong cast enjoying themselves, on-point dialogue, and a clever scenario that leads to an authentic lift of the spirit. It’s surely one of Allen’s best works.

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