Midnight in Paris
PG-13
Entertainment: +4
Acceptability: +2

Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard. Comedy/romance/fantasy. Written & directed by Woody Allen. Opened in limited release on 5/20/11.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A frustrated Hollywood script writer visits Paris with his fiancťe and her disapproving parents. Coming to terms with the fact that he has little in common with his girl or her family, Gil begins roaming the streets at night, whimsically thinking of a better life in a better time. His illusions suddenly become a reality. (I do not wish to say more, as the turning of events should not be given away. Suffice it to say, itís a fantasy. A funny fantasy.)

PREVIEW REVIEW: Because Iím a Christian, many may wonder why Iíve spent so much time reading the works of and studying the life of Ernest Hemingway. I counter with, why not? God gave Papa Hemingway a great gift; one I as a writer have been enamored with ever since high school. Aldous Huxley said of Hemingwayís style, ďHe writes in the white spaces between the lines.Ē Indeed, by using words to reveal more than their literal meaning, he paints his story on a canvas of paper. Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words. He called it his best work. ďFor sale: baby shoes, never worn.Ē Itís not just an economy of words, or a reverence for language; this example represents his piercing, revealing prose Ė a prose that often exceeds poetry (A Farewell To Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls). Though Hemingway was not a religious man, for me, his work was. Sometimes God uses the talents of the secular to teach the heart of the pious. So why this declaration of unabashed admiration for Ernest Hemingway? I think it will help explain my appreciation for Woody Allenís newest film, Midnight in Paris. Without meaning to sound too third-year-English-lit, the film is simply sumptuous.

First, Woody has the guts to take three minutes or so, even before the credits, to introduce us to the City of Lights, giving Paris a gilded Renaissance glow. Itís his version of an opening grabber. As with his introduction to Manhattan, he blends a dramatic touch with a lush sense of blithe spirit. With both film beginnings, he makes us nostalgic, even if we have never been to those cities. Then thereís his respect for story. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Woody Allen cherishes a detailed and copious narrative. In this his 41st film, Mr. Allen gives us one of his most enchanting (there I go again with the college lit exclamations Ė canít help it, the film deserves such appreciative verbiage).

Just when you think you know where heís going, Allen detours, taking us down another skit-like anecdote before getting back to the main storyline. Yet, nothing is done willy-nilly in his better works. Everything is placed in the story to further the story. You get your moneyís worth when Allen is in good form. That is, if you still think the true special effects are story, character and dialogue. If youíre looking for a car chase or a CGI transformation, well, this isnít for you. Now, I want to amend that last statement. I like a good action adventure with CGI thrills, but I like a witty drawing-room comedy as well. Maybe you do to.

This brings us back to Hemingway. I have read several bios about my favorite writer, so when names such as Gertrude Stein, Zelda Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali and others of the Lost Generation pop up in Woodyís clever fantasy, Iím further engrossed. When Owen Wilsonís Gil meets Hemingway (I wonít explain how this happens, letís not give away too much here), Iím further gratified that there are others who still acknowledge the authorís skill and magic. The actor playing Hemingway, Corey Stoll, and Woody Allenís ability to recreate Papaís laconic speech pattern manage to bring Papa to life, catching his flair and uniqueness.

Itís a clean film. Thereís little if any crudity in conversation or action, and with the exception of two misuses of Christís name, thereís no other profanity or obscenity. Itís about romance, finding oneself, appreciating the present while savoring the past. Though his lead takes some swipes at conservatives, Republicans and the Tea-Partiers, the hits can only be accepted as insightful by those already juxtaposed.

Owen Wilson must be singled out (though the entire cast is perfect) as Gil, a wannabe novelist. Wilson has always been funny, with occasional signs of vulnerability, but with his well-written part and supported by players that can only be called pros, he gives one of his best performances. Thereís also Kathy Bates, terrific as a wise, no-nonsense, yet caring Gertrude Stein. Rachel McAdams takes on the hardest role, that of Gilís self-absorbed materialistic fiancťe, and somehow gives her dimension. And Marion Cotillard is beautiful and ethereal as Picassoís mistress. Sheís a wonderful actress, but she excels at that ethereal business.

Is it insightful? A bit, though I suspect the bespectacled filmmakerís true intent was merely to take us away from toils and woes of the day. Is it funny? Often. But for those of us faintly familiar with American literature and an appreciation for days gone by, itís mainly charming. Thereís also growth in Mr. Allenís work. Itís not just about being neurotic or obsessed with death. Itís more a wish-fulfillment fantasy, a throwback to the ending of Annie Hall. We settle back for two hours while Mr. Allen and his cast give hope in wishing upon a star. As I sat there, I thought, yeah, Iíd love to be a novelist living in Paris. Well, make that an author living in Pismo Beach.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Summary
Crude Language: I caught none
Obscene Language: None
Profanity: Two misuses of Christís name and the term ďOh my GodĒ is heard a couple of times.
Violence: None
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Drinking throughout
Other: None
Running Time: 100 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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