The latest offering from Woody Allen stars Owen Wilson as Gil, a Hollywood screenwriter hack whose creative impulses are heightened by the rainy streets of Paris. Gil has no respect for the opinions of others, especially those of his overbearing wife Inez (Rachel McAdams), her affluent parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), and her obnoxiously cultured friends (Nina Arianda and Michael Sheen, the latter of which provides quite a few laughs as the kind of guy who challenges the knowledge of tour guides). One night Gil decides to take a break from his familial frustrations in order to concentrate on his blossoming novel that concerns a man who works in a nostalgia shop. He wanders the streets of Paris and soon finds himself transported to the 1920s where he interacts with his heroes that include the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Salvador Dali (Adrian Brody in a role that recalls his strange Stella Artois commercial from earlier this year). Gil returns to the era every night at midnight, eventually traveling even further back in time to the early years of the Belle Epoque where he learns that the past is always more appealing to the inhabitants of any given present.
Midnight in Paris will surely be compared to the director’s fantasy-heavy romantic comedy The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), but Midnight doesn’t nearly succeed in matching the charm and creativity of that film. The film is certainly a smart, quaint comedy, but the fantasy elements are ultimately rather goofy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing although fans who continue to patiently await a new entry into the director’s lexicon of great films will most likely leave the theater with a now familiar feeling of ambivalence.
Midnight in Paris opens today at the Ritz Five.