Movie Review: Midnight in Paris

By Stephen Rebello

Owen Wilson plays an American who longs to live in Paris and write a novel in Woody Allen's romantic comedy that also stars Rachel McAdams.

Director: Woody Allen Rating: PG-13 Studio: Gravier Productions

Woody Allen gets things beautifully right again in Midnight in Paris. Funny, touching, romantic, wistful, satiric and with just the right touch of fantasy and whimsy, the movie features Owen Wilson as a surprisingly effective Allen surrogate—a successful, discontent Hollywood screenwriter who wants to chuck it all to live in Paris and write a novel. On vacation in the City of Lights with his steely, superficial fiancée (Rachel McAdams), Wilson, a sad-eyed hayseed Cinderella by way of Malibu, deeply longs for Paris in the 1920s, the Lost Generation era of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Dali and Bunuel; meanwhile, his thoroughly unpleasant fiancée spends time with her materialistic, uber-Republican parents (well played Mimi Kennedy by Kirk Fuller) and pompous, pseudo-intellectual pedant Michael Sheen.

His fantasies fulfilled thanks to magical coaches that grant his wish, Wilson, in The Purple Rose of Cairo style, gets to rub elbows with the talented, the extraordinary and the disappointing, paving the way for vivid, witty work from Kathy Bates, Tom Hiddleston, Corey Stoll and a hilarious, scene-stealing Adrien Brody. The showstopper, though, is the bewitching Marion Cottilard, who brings grace, melancholy and old-time movie star glam to her role as the muse and mistress of several writers and painters. Her scenes discussing sex, culture and painting with Wilson (who embarrassingly, considering the character he’s playing, constantly mispronounces “picture” as “pitcher”) are funny, ironic and sublime.

Beautifully photographed by Darius Khondji, Midnight in Paris, a fable that delivers pure pleasure, speaks not only to Allen’s longstanding love affair with Paris but also to the pointless but irresistible allure of nostalgia.

About the Author

Playboy Contributing Editor Stephen Rebello has written many Playboy Interview and 20 Questions features. He is the author of such books as the notorious Bad Movies We Love (with Edward Margulies) and Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the latter of which has inspired a dramatic feature film set for production in 2011. His most recent Playboy Interviews include Josh Brolin and Cameron Diaz.

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