The Eiffel Tower. The Moulin Rouge. Water lilies floating in the pond. “There’s no city like this in the world,” Owen Wilson’s “Midnight in Paris” character, Gil, said within the first five minutes of the latest Woody Allen film. And perhaps there isn’t.
Following the story of a young, engaged couple in Paris, the premise of “Midnight in Paris” seems like it would be an overwritten cliche. Gil (Wilson) is a Hollywood screenwriter working on his first novel. Inez (Rachel McAdams) is his fiance, who accompanies Gil to Paris. But while “Midnight in Paris” is a love story, it’s nothing like the romantic comedy “Wedding Crashers,” which also featured the budding developing romance between Wilson and McAdams’ characters.
“Midnight in Paris” has a more mature feel to it, and both Wilson and McAdams rise to the challenge. Wilson, known for his playful antics in “Wedding Crashers” and for voicing animated characters like Lightning McQueen from Pixar’s “Cars” franchise, captures the nostalgic dreamer, fascinated by the 1920s Paris culture and past legacy of renowned writers like Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Meanwhile, McAdams is the realist in this relationship, grounded in the present and future (she wants to live in Malibu, California, while her to-be-husband works in Hollywood). As one can imagine, this causes tension between the two, and Woody Allen’s beautifully crafted screenplay uses Wilson and McAdams’ relationship as a foil for Wilson’s musings of what it would be like to live in Paris during the roaring twenties — interacting with the legendary greats like Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill) and Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll).
Allen’s Oscar-winning screenplay lends itself to brilliance. Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald are charming — like Gatsby and Daisy from F. Scott’s novel “The Great Gatsby.” Mr. Dali is just as eccentric his surrealist paintings. And Hemingway is witty and wise, offering insight to a fellow writer.
In addition, “Midnight in Paris” shows off the gorgeous, romantic scenery of the French capital — the cobblestone streets, the bridges over tranquil waters, the rain. It’s the city of artists, writers and intellectuals. Stephane Wrembel’s music is enchanting. Each backdrop is a work of art. The irony is, Allen’s masterpiece shows off the artists we know and love through their parting gifts to the world. Perhaps like Fitzgerald and Hemingway’s books and Dali and Picasso’s paintings, Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” will also survive the test of time and remain as timeless as the classic memories it portrays.