Film review

By Séamus Smyth

Woody Allen’s bashful love letter to France’s most toasted City,( Paris of course) is read aloud to the class and not only does he win over the hearts of each boy and girl in attendance, but the City’s cheeks almost turn rosy from the influx of compliments.

The flick stars Owen Wilson as Gil  in one of his most charming performances of his career, who makes the trip abroad with his fiancée, Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, and her right-wing, pompous parents John and Helen.

Gil has recently made the bold move to embark on a full-length novel despite his success as a screen writer.  He immediately falls for the French flavour that he re-discovers with every fresh breath of air. He fantasizes out loud about emigrating from his native California to France, to the frustration of his wife-to-be.

Just when Gil’s liberal ramblings begin to maximize the patience of the conservative parents, the dinner is interrupted by a former professor of Inez’s who appears smitten to run into one of his former students.  She’s equally delighted about the chance encounter although Gil brushes him off as a “pseudo-intellectual.”

While Inez follows Professor Paul from one exhibit to the next, Gil sets off on an adventure of his own as he looks to discover whether or not he has the skills required to pen a successful book. His midnight exploits initially strike him as surreal hallucinations and he comically attempts to explain to Inez where he has been wandering off to in the middle of the night.

A sight for sore eyes is Marion Cotilliard, who plays an old-fashioned dame who only has to take a puff from the cigarette dangling from her wrist to gain Gil’s undivided attention. Her beauty previously escaped me in last year’s blockbuster, “Inception,” mostly because she played a deranged head case.  A famous author, who I will not divulge for spoiler’s sake, is a comedic goldmine as he boasts about the honour in war, his love of drink and his intense sense of competition with other writers.

Along with the creative perspective on the way some of the greatest artists would have interacted, the film succeeds because of Wilson’s natural zaniness.  His ability as a character to never become too demanding of his environment or probe at questions that are better left alone for the audience’s sake creates genuine laughs throughout the evening.

Allen’s recent works have taken accomplished actors back to such natural formulas of acting, that it becomes difficult to remember that you are not just watching the life of a stranger through an enlarged peephole. Melinda & Melinda, You will meet a Tall Dark Stranger, and now Midnight in Paris, are all wonderfully decorated with elegant horns and violins and sophisticated speech.  The films choose to not cater to a certain audience, but allow all to sail quietly under a new script about the lives of others and how they cope with life-altering predicaments.

The visual shots of Paris that accompany the film would make even a Hermit exchange their capital for the mighty Euro dollar to visit the sights and sounds presented. The legendary authors and artists that Gil communicates with when the clock strikes twelve would spike the interest of even those who have somehow eluded the written texts of famous authors until now.

Woody Allen’s film ending is as disappointing as when Gil is chaperoned back to his hotel room as Gil and the audience must now dwell in the present era that we have been chosen to exist in.  Allen again has captured escapism in its purist form.