Wednesday, 11 May 2011
CANNES 2011 - Midnight in Paris
Midnight in Paris (2011) dir. by Woody Allen
Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard and Michael Sheen.
By Blair Stewart
I had a dear old friend so hung up on the past that not one conversation went by without him whining about his disgust at being born 40 years too late. Music back then had a genuine animal strut to it; revolution applied to politics instead of a buzzword used for the latest flavours of Coke; early Godard was a genius instead of the cranky old hermit he is now. In hindsight, that friend depressed the hell out of me, and as his time-displacement dilemma is central to Midnight in Paris, I hope my old mate watches Allen's latest when it's released. But he'll likely complain about the cost of tickets nowadays.
The old spoilt trollop that is Paris is given more praise, as Woody Allen eavesdrops on neuroses along the Seine, and his camera professes love for her streets while conveniently overlooking the banlieues. On holiday with his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her ugly American in-laws, Gil (Owen Wilson), a milquetoast scriptwriter, is overcome by the nostalgia of the city's belles-lettres heyday of Stein, Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Making a midnight jaunt to avoid his fiancée’s faux-intellectual admirer (Michael Sheen), Allen nicks from his own Purple Rose of Cairo, as Gil strolls into a 1920s phantasmagorical Madame Tussaud's exhibit where he can hobnob with his dead heroes (Cole Porter, T.S. Eliot, the Surrealists) until the tourist needs to wake up to the present or before Ernie H. gets too drunk and punchy. Gil's dallying is complicated by the arrival of Picasso's fetching muse played by Marion Cotillard as a gal most folks would happily build a time-bending DeLorean for.
As is the case with his recent, too-kind travelogues of Barcelona and London, Woody Allen portrays Paris in the kindest light possible and doesn't upset his own aesthetic applecart at all – faint praise for a comedy that has a couple of smart jokes sprung from characters that, in order to get belly laughs, thankfully lack a) cheap profanity and b) sexual depravity.
Midnight in Paris is a mostly enjoyable, though slightly forgettable, work by Allen, not surprising as the last great film he's made goes back to the previous decade, 1999's Sweet and Lowdown. Back to his Bottle Rocket roots, Owen Wilson is as likable as always, Corey Stoll does Hemingway justice, and Marion Cotillard is the charming quasi-ingénue as all heck.
If anything, Midnight is worth seeing for Adrien Brody's small but fantastic turn in one of the more memorable bits of screen-thievery in recent years.