Midnight in Paris

A- Romantic comedy (of a sort)

Written and directed by Woody Allen

I didn’t think Woody Allen still had it in him. He hasn’t made a film this funny, this wistful, and this heartfelt in decades. And I don’t think he’s ever made one this upbeat.

Owen Wilson stars as your basic neurotic, romantic, witty, oversexed, and not quite intellectual Allen protagonist. This time, he’s an extremely successful screenwriter who’d rather be writing novels and suffering for his art. And he wants to do it in Paris. That shouldn’t be too difficult, except he wants to do it in the Paris of the 1920s, while hanging out with Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso, and other greats from that era.

At least he’s in Paris, if only as a tourist with his fiancé (Rachel McAdams) and her midnightinparisparents. Allen gives us no reason to believe that this engagement will end in a happy marriage, or to hope that it will. She’s from a wealthy, conservative family, she has no desire to live outside of the US, and the last thing she understands is a desire to give up a successful career to follow a muse.

And believe me, his muse takes him into strange places. I don’t want to give away too much, so let me just say that there’s magic in the streets of Paris when the clock tolls twelve.

This movie resembles Allen’s 1985 Purple Rose of Cairo. As with that film, the protagonist’s intense desire to escape into a  fantasy world alters reality. But this is a much more optimistic movie, one where fantasy can help one handle reality.

In fact, the movie’s biggest flaw is a preachy speech near the end. Allen is too gifted a filmmaker to need an explicitly explained moral.

I spent much of my young adulthood working the Renaissance and Dickens Fairs, where a tight-knit group of friends pretended to be different people living in imagined golden ages. I think that gave me an interesting perspective on what Allen was doing here.

Did I mention that it’s his funniest film in years?

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