* * * * * (Don)
* * * * (Joyce)
(Woody Allen's Ingenious comedy)
We had all but given up on Woody Allen. His movies had lost their punch. We were tired of the same old thing, mainly a whiny old man with nothing new to say.
And then along comes Midnight in Paris, a fantastic fantasy filled with humor, nostalgia, mystery, glamour and a plot as fresh as Rhode Island corn in August. Yes, there's a little corn in the story, and it will make you laugh and cheer for American writer Gil Pender.
Owen Wilson plays the Hollywood writer who joins his wife and her parents for a trip to the City of Love. This is by far Wilson's greatest performance. He sees Paris with wide eyes, reacting to everything that happens to him with a wonderful sense of awe. Director Allen allows the audience to share in that awe, opening the film with a montage of Paris during the day, the night and the rain.
Allen has created a fantasy, involving famous writers and artists from Hemingway to Cole Porter to Salvador Dali to Gertrude Stein (wonderful cameo by Kathy Bates).
Gil is overwhelmed by the city, dreaming of what it must have been like during its Golden Age. He would like to leave Malibu, quit his job writing for TV, and soak up the atmosphere of Paris while writing his novel. His fiancée (Rachel McAdams) will have nothing to do with his crazy idea. Gil thinks up excuses to leave his fiancée, a horrible couple they meet, and her meddling parents and roam the city at night.
At the stroke of midnight, a vintage car pulls up and whisks him away to a 1920s Paris, where he meets all of these famous people.
Is he dreaming, fantasizing or time-traveling? It doesn't matter. Just go with the story and enjoy the wonderful, sharp exchanges and dialogue.
Corey Stoll's portrayal of Hemingway is classic. He quotes from his novel and mentors Gil, bringing him to Stein, who agrees to read it and make suggestions. Being "from the future," his story appears like science fiction to her.
Gil meets and falls in love with Picasso's mistress, Adriana (Marion Cotillard), causing a few complications.
We've told you enough. We don't want to spoil the spontaneity, twists, turns and surprises that occur in this tightly written hour and a half classic. This is one of those "trust us" reviews.
We also loved the ending and enjoyed the nearly sold-out matinee audience clapping at the end, a rare occurrence these days.
Rated PG-13, which translates to a movie for thinking adults. Having majored in American literature in college a long time ago, I delighted in the literary references. Joyce liked the movie also, but for me it was the best I have seen this year.