MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
Like Christmas, birthdays and Lancashire’s revered Scarecrow judging competition, every year it’s likely that one can expect the release of a Woody Allen film. Though, as anyone with a broad knowledge of Allen’s efforts of the 21st century thus far will tell you, they have been more hit and miss than Fernando Torres’ track record at Chelsea. If you’re not a football buff and didn’t understand that reference, he has scored three goals in twenty games and was bought for a cool 50 million. This works out at over 16 million pounds a goal which, as I’m lead to believe, is not a good cost-to-benefit ratio.
I digress. All I’m trying to say is the seventy five year old Brooklynite has made some absolute stinkers in the last ten years. I’m talking really terrible films. Like, so bad that the CIA probably played them to terror suspects back-to-back until they ‘fessed up. Like, so bad that the Rwandan government allegedly stated, “Now, the people of this country have seen some fucked up shit, but nothing as horrific as Colin Farrell’s feeble attempt a cockney accent.” Like, so bad that Ashton Kutcher probably would have considered acting in them if he had the mystical power of hindsight, which he doesn’t and I think we can all put our metaphorical hands on our hearts and thank Christ for that one.
What I’m trying to iterate here is that when I was alerted to the concept of Woody Allen producing a film starring Owen Wilson, to be honest, I was a little perturbed. Not massively, mind you. It was the level of worry you’d expect when you pay around 50 mil for a footballer and he’s only scored three goals in twenty games. Y’know, that kind of “Oh what a joker, he’s not really turned up to this game, has he? It’s fine though, and in no way a nauseating display of wasted capital in a time of immense economical upheaval.”
However, and I’m talking a gigantic however here, Midnight in Paris is out of control in its brilliancy. From the trailer it may be unclear as to what actually happens in the plot. It appears to be Wilson ambling around Paris at midnight, which may or may not be a great concept for a film by itself. But luckily, soon into watching the film, the general narrative unfurls.
Gil Pender (Wilson), a struggling writer, takes his future wife Inez (Rachel McAdams) on a holiday to the romance capital, along with Inez’s Tea Party loving parents. After a little site seeing, in addition to the couple meeting up with Inez’s friends (one of them is obviously pompous in order for Allen conduct one of his favourite hobbies: the attempted cinematic destruction of pseudo-intellectualism), things go askew as Gil decides to decline a night out dancing, swapping it instead for a nightly stroll.
As midnight declares itself, while Gil chills out in a cobbled part of the city, an old fashioned car of the 1920s rolls up and ushers him inside. It turns out that this particular vehicle will take him into the past where his literary heroes and heroines are awaiting.
Looking at the calibre of acting in this film, it is superb. Wilson demonstrates that he is not just of Ben Stiller’s range and I like to think this film makes up for You, Me and Dupree and even perhaps, Drilbit Taylor. The support from McAdams is proficient and I very much enjoyed Inez’s father who belittles Gil as a crazy lefty (“say hello to Trotsky”) for no discernible reason.
Nevertheless, the film really glows when Gil interacts with the writers and artists of 1920s Paris. These include a hilarious turn from Adrien Brody who plays Salvador Dali, and Corey Stoll’s great rendition of the boisterous Hemingway. So much so, in fact, that a guy next to me in the cinema insisted on proving that he had an English degree by guffawing every time a prose writer uttered a word. Credit also has to be adorned to Marion Cotillard who not only pulls off the three pronged attack of naive student, Picasso’s mistress and, of course, the object of Gil’s affection astutely, but looks like a more refined version of Katy Perry, which is always a treat.
Midnight in Paris examines of the age old idiom ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’. As Gil switches between modern day Paris and the starry-eyed rendering of the 20s, he becomes torn between his fiancé and Marion Cotillard’s Adriana - as well as the two epochs in general. The premise is also shared amongst many of the characters too as some, like Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds, appear to be unsatisfied in their situation.
Allen crafts this notion skilfully alongside the backdrop of the French city and his attention to detail is delectable. Throughout the film, he really seeks out some aesthetically agreeable locations. Apparently this was a remarkable feat as I’ve been assured that Paris is actually a dirtbox. If he managed that with Paris, imagine how less shit he’d make Birmingham look: the Spaghetti Junction filmed from obscure angles to help boast its intriguing construction, rapid shots of the bright lights of Broad Street to imitate its bohemian atmosphere and, of course, a soft focus fade in of the Bronze Bull that marks the entrance to the infamous shopping centre. It would be perfection.
The question will always remain each time Allen creates a lead protagonist out of a fragment of his psyche: when will it end? I like to think the answer to that will be never. Sure, we’ve had, as of late, a resurgence in the neurotic lead role via Michael Cera and to a lesser extent, Jesse Eisenburg but no one does it better than our Woody. To surmise, Wilson was definitely a suitable proxy of Allen, the rest of the casting was brilliant and like many of Allen’s greatest films, Midnight in Paris will leave you with the feeling of being content with what you have. And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy then you can buy Ashton Kutcher’s seminal classic, What Happens in Vegas for 40p (plus shipping) on Amazon.
By JOE TINKLER