Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Movie Review: Midnight in Paris ***1/2

Woody Allen's latest film, Midnight in Paris, opens with a montage of scenes in modern day Paris - a perfect antidote to the deluge of superhero films released this summer.  Gil (Owen Wilson) is visiting Paris with his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) family and becomes enchanted with the city of light, much to the the annoyance of his future in-laws.  As they visit various tourist haunts around the city with a pretentious professor Paul (Michael Sheen), Gil decides to investigate Paris on his own at night.  One night he finds himself back in Paris at some point in the early 1920s and meets his literary heroes - Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and many others at the forefront of 20th century modernism.  Nostalgia for the past is the film's main theme, but also the need to embrace one's own time period.

There is a lighthearted nature to the film that is often lacking in Woody's films.  Perhaps it is the performance of Owen Wilson, who's likability Allen used to full effect.  The fantasy element also is also something new for Allen.  At times, the film is a who's who of 1920s Paris, but that is the part of the great fun in this film.  Gil observes the Fitzgerald's marriage at first hand, gets writing advice from Hemingway, and a critique from Gertrude Stein.  The writing life is another big theme, since Gil who is tired of writing scripts for Hollywood wants to stay in Paris and work on his novel - a common dilemma in Allen's films.  His bourgeois in-laws will have none of it. Yes, the film is predictable and sentimental, but also full of lighthearted humor and smart writing.

This is beautiful looking film to look it - Allen's Paris is quite appealing.  For anyone that feels lost in their current time period, they will take comfort and find some hope in this film as well.  It is a safe bet that English High School teachers will use this film in the future for American Lit courses - and they should. In fact any student of the humanities, will find much to savor in Midnight in Paris.

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