Woody Allen movies are generally a hit-or-miss affair to the extreme. When they hit they really resonate and create wonderful lasting memories that can be shared with new viewers time and again or even with a bunch who’ve already seen the film a dozen times. When they miss they miss so completely that you wonder if Allen fell asleep and his clarinet finished the picture. Given this, I tend to let some others stick their toes into the water first, to see what sort of reaction they exhibit.
Enough positive news came forth regarding Midnight in Paris to take a chance and am I ever glad I took that chance.
Here we have a story that’s entirely fresh, novel, compelling, witty, darkly funny, hilarious at times and downright memorable. I’d gladly see this film again and again.
It’s delightful almost from the first frame on. The casting is fantastic and this is most important for the main character played brilliantly by Owen Wilson. For reasons I can’t divulge without spilling the beans, Wilson’s quirky approach, non-standard (but good) looks and obvious talent carry the entire film from start-to-finish. He’s so good here that you suspect none of the other roles even remotely matter. They do, but he still does that good a job. I tried thinking of other actors that could fit this material as well and came up empty.
As far as the other actors there’s no shortage of talented performances there either but, as I said, their impact on the plot is so downplayed that it’s almost a wonder that Allen got anyone of stature to go for them. Wilson’s fiance is played by Rachel McAdams who has never looked physically better than in this movie. I suspect she’s been very busy at the gym and, at times, it felt as if Allen really hoped to cast Scarlett Johansson for the role. McAdams here ends up both looking and acting very similar. Allen has a way of getting fixated on people, attitudes and looks and her role underscores this quite clearly.
Another stand-out is Kathy Bates in a smaller but useful role that helps connect a few key scenes. Michael Sheen is a wonderful actor still flying under the radar of most people but turns in a wonderfully memorable performance. The hardest role to score is the one played by Marion Cotillard. She plays a pivotal role and yet does so in a way that’s heavily subdued and I’m not quite sure that’s by design, good or bad. It works and doesn’t detract so let’s just say it’s effective and move on.
The film never once had me thinking about the time and feels just about perfect as is. It achieves this balance by taking a concept that, on its face, seems ludicrous but then manages to win you over. You’ll not only experience a dream but also get a philosophical lesson to boot. The movie cunningly sneaks into your childhood self and takes you for an amazing journey that you just have to believe and I so do believe.