30 May 2011 | alexart-1
"Do you think it's possible to love two women at the same time?," asks our protagonist Gil Prender to a tour guide discussed Auguste Rodin's love for his mistress and his wife. Like that's the first time we've heard that question in a Woody Allen movie. Infidelity, gorgeous women, and neuroticism are some of Allen's favorite motifs, so it's really not too much of a surprise that they all appear in Midnight in Paris.
That said, Allen's rendition of those ideas feels fresh this time. Midnight in Paris is a sweet, fun romp through the art world of France. This light comedy may not have some of the heavier messages about adultery and art that previous Allen films have had, but Midnight in Paris is, nonetheless, an enjoyable exercise in allusion to the Lost Generation and artists of the 1920s.
Midnight in Paris begins with the same idea of a man, in this case a screenwriter named Gil played by Owen Wilson, searching for connection with the real world. The protagonist is clearly a projection of Allen's self, but no matter. Gil is engaged to the Inez, played by a blond Rachel McAdams who coincidentally (or is it?) looks like Scarlet Johansson from Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Inez bores Gil with her pretentious friends and spiteful parents, which ultimately causes Gil to seek inspiration on his own time by drunkenly wandering that streets of Paris. One night, he is invited into a car that takes him back to the 1920s where he meets his favorite writers and artists, something that eventually leads to a breakthrough in his work. A large supporting cast includes Kathy Bates, Allison Pill, Adrien Brody, Michael Sheen, and Marion Cotillard.
Allen's conception of Paris is just as romantic as the story itself. The film's physical look matches some of the complexities of the women in that it appears to be almost splashed in gold. It is, after all, the City of Lights. It's a beautiful movie that matches the pretty faces of its starring women.
Allen's screenplay leaps right off the page thanks to his cast, but this too is something that isn't unusual for a Woody Allen film. At his best, Allen picks actors that play their parts with a sense of realism that, when combined with some elements of the fantastic, charm the audience. Just about everyone here manages to do just this, with the exception of Rachel McAdams, who tries her hardest with an underdeveloped character. Marion Cotillard is the best of the cast (as per usual) in her role as Picasso's mistress. She's bursting with sexuality yet she's grounded in her ability to deliver her dialogue with her natural French accent.
Midnight in Paris is fantastique. In comparison to Woody Allen's previous tales of lust and spite, his newest film feels like a dessert rather than a filling entree, yet this is exactly how a good, highbrow summer movie should be. The cast shines just as bright as the lights at the top of the Eiffel Tower and Allen proves himself worthy of his place in society as a master director once again. By no means a classic, Midnight in Paris is a pretty little diversion, one that is grounded in a theatrical gimmick that totally works every time. This, along with The Tree of Life, will be one of a few summer movies that will dazzle visually (without explosions) and somehow manage not to insult the viewer's intelligence.