In the waning days of Woody Allen‘s career as a director, prior to his recent bouts with cancellation, he didn’t hit on successes all that often. But he absolutely did with 2011’s Midnight in Paris, which hit theaters 10 years ago this month. The film was released in May of 2011, when Allen was 75 years old and was a rare triumph amid the sea of Whatever Works, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, To Rome With Love, and Magic in the Moonlight ― although he also had a hit two years later with Blue Jasmine.
Midnight in Paris is an absolutely delightful film, featuring a handsome Paris setting, an unlikely but very successful Allen stand-in with Owen Wilson, and a large company of actors having great fun playing historical figures.
The film had a fantastic trailer, which for once didn’t give away what the movie was about, but made it appear the film was about Wilson’s rivalry with a pretentious pseudo-intellectual (Michael Sheen).
Wilson, despite being blond, 5’10”, and very gentile, plays a surprisingly adept Allen surrogate. His character, Gil, is a successful Hollywood screenwriter who would nevertheless rather live the artist’s life in Paris. Visiting that city along with his shallow wife (Rachel McAdams) and her Republican parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), Gil finds himself uncomfortable in his present circumstances.
Out for a walk one night, Gil finds himself magically transported to the 1920s, among the “movable feast” of great writers and artists. There’s Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Dali (Adrien Brody), and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates). He also meets Adriana, a beautiful young woman (Marion Cotillard), who teaches him a lesson about being happy in your own time.
The famous literary titans try to give him advice, about both his novel-in-progress and his romantic predicament, which finds him about to marry one woman but is in love with another ― one who lives in another century.
Not only do these actors have a great time playing these figures of the past, but the script is also full of clever lines like: “You’re a surrealist, but I’m a normal guy.”
And Corey Stoll may be the best-ever on-screen Ernest Hemingway:
If you’re one of those people who’s conflicted about continuing to watch Allen’s movies following the revelations from Allen v. Farrow and other reporting about the director’s misdeeds, Midnight in Paris neither features Allen on-screen nor has any plots that touch in any way on the things Woody was accused of. The film is about many of Allen’s obsessions, from the plight of the artist to the obsession with the past, just thankfully not the grosser ones.
Much as Allen’s work is undergoing a reappraisal, Midnight in Paris is delightful enough, and far enough way from the controversy that it will likely stand the test of time.