A deceptively light time-travel romance, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris uses fairy-tale devices as a way to get to the filmmaker's familiar themes. A nebbishy screenwriter who longs to publish a novel, Gil (Owen Wilson) is working on a book set in a nostalgia shop--much to the open frustration of Inez (Rachel McAdams), his rich-girl fiancée.
The latest in a long line of actors playing a "Woody Allen type" in a Woody Allen film, Wilson bends his own recognizably nasal Texan drawl into an exaggerated pattern of staccatos and glissandos that's obviously modeled on the writer/director's near-musical verbal cadences; the word "lunatic," for instance, begins with a long, hard "LEW," modulated over three connecting notes. His performance--"Woody Allen" in quotes and beach-blond drag--adds an extra layer of distance to a script thick with allegory.
The couple has accompanied her parents on a trip to Paris, and one night
Gil drunkenly wanders off alone. A car pulls up, the strangers inside
offer him a ride, and the next thing we know, he is at a party full of
flappers dancing to Cole Porter. When a vivacious young couple introduce
themselves as Scott and Zelda, he comes to understand that he's been
transported to Paris, circa the '20s.
Ernest Hemingway offers to show Gil's novel-in-progress to his good
friend Gertrude Stein, so Gil runs out to grab his manuscript--and
promptly gets lost in the present day. But the next night, another
mysterious car drives up, and he is once again transported to his
personal nostalgic paradise.
The high concept is a means, not an end: Allen's not terribly interested
in inter-dimensional travel, but it's a backdoor way to investigate the
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problem of time--our inability to slow it down, to make anything good
last or prevent inevitable misery--within ordinary life.
Look for our extended review in this week's issue.