Monday, June 20, 2011

Midnight in Paris Charms or is it Paris that Charms?

      Woody Allen’s 738th  movie (or so it seems) Midnight in Paris is a romantic fantasy focused on a screenwriter who wants to be taken seriously and his selfish, craven fiancée who doesn’t seem to have much of a reason for being with him besides the fact that he’s sort of hers.  Magically at midnight, he’s driven into the 1920s when Paris was ‘a moveable feast’ and becomes acquainted with Hemingway, Dali, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and the Fitzgeralds among others.  He also meets the ‘art groupie’, as he calls her, who represents the spirit of the ‘20s and of the artistic muse.  

      Allen’s casting is, as usual, amazing.  Adrien Brody as Dali and Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald deserve their own
sequel since they physically look exactly like the historical figures and are so vibrant in their few scenes that I wondered what else they were doing when they weren’t on screen.  Rachel McAdams does everything she can with a thankless role as the fiancée.  If she weren’t so direct and sexy, the part couldn’t work because Gil, the screenwriter, would shamble away from her before arriving in Paris.  Owen Wilson dominates the film in an almost understated way.  He’s speaking Allen’s lines, but he never loses his persona.  This isn’t as easy as it sounds because Kenneth Branagh, Will Ferrell, and even Mia Farrow sometimes seemed to be channeling Allen in earlier films.  Michael Sheen was unrecognizable as ‘the pedant’ and, as his wife, Nina Arianda (just nominated for a Tony for Born Yesterday) is such an interesting presence that I sort of hoped she’d have a couple more scenes with Owen Wilson, though the plot was not structured for that to happen.  Marion Cotillard sparkles as Adriana, the muse.  

      The irony of the plot is that while Gil longs for the literary high point of the 1920s, Adriana longs for the Impressionists of the Belle Epoque.  As Simone Signoret titled her memoir, Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be could be the subtitle for this film.

      And what is it about Paris as the setting for compelling love stories in the past decade?  It’s looked romantic and beautiful – probably because it is – in Paris, Je t’aime, Piaf, and Before Sunset to name a few.   

No comments: