Hands of Time: Traveling through Paris at Midnight

Midnight in Paris
Written & Directed by Woody Allen
94 mins.

***(out of four)

By Tim Lucia

Woody Allen’s annual film has come to theaters this summer, providing a nice departure from the usual summer blockbuster fare.  “Midnight in Paris” is a humorous romantic comedy mixed with whimsical fantasy.  Witty and fun, “Midnight” is probably Allen’s best film since 2005’s “Match Point”.

Gil (Owen Wilson), a Hollywood screenwriter, is on vacation in Paris with his stuck-up, controlling fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her parents.  Working on a book about nostalgia, Gil longs to live in the past, specifically 1920s Paris.  Walking alone one night, Gil gets lost.  As the clock strikes midnight, an early-model car picks him up and whisks him into another world, the world of his dreams.  Gil meets a slew of famous writers and artists, as well as a beautiful woman (Marion Cotillard), which he immediately develops a crush on.  Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, he drifts apart from his fiancée.

Paris is seen as a city of romance through Allen’s lens.  Gil is taken with the beauty of the city, and seems to get great inspiration from it.  Allen seems to be taken with the city himself — filling his script with scenes of dining, drinking, music, and discussion.  High culture, as always, is discussed intellectually while also being made fun of — another trademark of Allen’s comedies.  Michael Sheen steals most of his scenes as a pretentious intellectual, whom Gil is threatened by.  

Allen’s directorial career has spanned over 45 years and 47 films.  Obviously, they are not all gems.  As usual, he has another film slated for next year, and will probably keep going as long as he can.  “Manhattan” and “Annie Hall” are two all-time great films of American cinema, and arguably the two best romantic comedies of all time.  While “Midnight” is not on their level, it is a strong return to form for Allen, who had spent most of this past decade making dramas and some fairly mediocre comedies.

Allen’s skill with both the pen and the camera is undeniable, and “Midnight” is a fun, enjoyable film which uses them both well.  A perfect date film, “Midnight’s” wit and charm make it a nice escape away from the superheroes and explosions of summer.  While not Allen’s best film, it is far from his worst.

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