MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. 93 mins. PG-13. Written and Directed by Woody Allen.
For those of you curious to check out Woody Allen's latest based on the overwhelming critical kudos, impressive box office take, and 92% fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com, let me do you a favor: don't. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself though. If you count yourself a fan of Woody Allen, and enjoy almost everything he does, by all means, enjoy. For the rest of us - a majority, I suspect at this point - don't believe the hype.
Though he's had plenty of practice, releasing a film a year for the last three decades or so, Allen stubbornly refuses to make a movie with anything resembling modern sensibilities. Some may appreciate the retro, low-key charms that Midnight in Paris has to offer. I'm not one of them. Though I enjoy Annie Hall and Manhattan as much as the next person, those were a long time ago, and Allen hasn't really improved much since. Match Point is the one glaring exception - an excellent film, mostly due to the fact that it doesn't even feel like Woody Allen is behind it.
Midnight in Paris finds him doing what he does, more or less. The Allen surrogate this time around - a writer named Gil - is played by Owen Wilson. Wilson may not be the first person you equate with Allen, but he does a surprisingly effective job. His easygoing, improvisational acting style meshes well with Allen's dialogue. Too bad the movie doesn't really give him anything funny to say.
Gil is engaged to Inez (Rachel McAdams, in a Wedding Crashers reteaming!), and they're vacationing in Paris with her parents. At night, he walks around Paris and is transported to the 1920s where he meets the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali, and Gertrude Stein. He also falls for a lovely French lady, played by (who else?) Marion Cotillard.
Time travel in a Woody Allen movie? Sign me up! Wait, not so fast. Allen doesn't do anything clever or creative with the concept. He shoots the present-day sequences the same as the 1920's. There's no distinguishing between the two, and no magic to any of it, despite the fact that the uber-talented Darius Khondji is the cinematographer.
The comedy is aimed strictly at literary snobs. Ha! - isn't it humorous that Salvador Dali (Adrian Brody - huh?) said this or that. Allen may be well read, but flaunting one's bookshelf doesn't exactly bring the funny.
Maybe the critics, so deprived of anything resembling a good movie from Allen lately - did you see Whatever Works? (yikes) - flipped for Midnight in Paris because it's thematically cohesive, confident, and subtle. Those are positives, sure, but they're in service of a movie that symbolizes the disconnect between critics and audiences. As for Mr. Allen, a piece of advice: just because you can make a movie every year doesn't mean you should.