So, another year, another Woody Allen film; and yes, another city. After a three year stint in London (Match Point, Scoop, Cassandra's Dream), then to Barcelona (Vicky Christina Barcelona), a short stop back at New York (Whatever Works), before London again (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) and this year, for the Owen Wilson led Midnight in Paris, it is France’s grand capital. The life of a film writer/director, eh?
Just in case the title hadn't made it clear, the film begins with what must be five minutes of clips of the city all overlayed with Allen's trademark credit music. The story - when we eventually get there - is centred on Gil (Wilson). Surprisingly enough, he is a writer; more specifically, he is trying to write his first novel, off the back of a successful - but superficial - Hollywood screenwriting career. It is very clear from the start that he bloody well loves Paris, and the idea of 1920s Paris in particular; “The golden era”, he exclaims. His fiancé, Inez (Rachel McAdams), is not as keen, preferring to stay for just a short break and retain the permanent Malibu house plans.
Midnight in Paris is full of great performances: Wilson does not display anything that we haven't seen him do many times before, but he suits the role perfectly. Michael Sheen is brilliantly unlikable as Paul, the highly pretentious friend of Inez. Corey Stoll and Adrian Brody are two other notable performances, but in an attempt to not give much more of the plot away, their roles can remain a nice surprise.
It's classic Allen - the strain of monogamous relationships, the temptation of adultery (mostly embodied by Marion Cotillard this time round, who fits the part of the sexual, bohemian 'art groupie' like a glove), the astute philosophical musings and themes. And, of course, the comedy. Exchanges between Gil and his right wing father-in-law, the pretentiousness of pretentious Paul and most of the time in which Stoll and Brody are on screen, are where the main laugh out loud moments exist. Perhaps 'classic Allen' reads 'same old thing' to some readers. Maybe so, but with such a production rate as his, originality is not going to be easily attained. Plus, he is rather good at this; not all his movies work, but Midnight in Paris is one of the better ones - not best, just comfortably within the better half of his filmography.
So, next year's offering? The Bop Decameron, reportedly a modern-day take on Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron, with the talents of Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Greta Gerwig and the man himself, in his first acting role since 2006's Scoop. And his love affair with Europe will also continue, it’s set in Rome.
Midnight in Paris will be showing at Broadway from Friday 7 to Thursday 20 October
Official Midnight in Paris website