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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review: MIDNIGHT IN PARIS


I'm surprised Woody Allen doesn't slouch more. That head of his must weigh a ton, what with all the exhaustion and neuroses it's filled with. His newest braingasm Midnight In Paris should please everyone from the deepest Allen fans to newcomers of his style.

Woody Allen is one of my heroes for a specific reason; when he makes movies, he makes them for a reason. The reason he's made almost 50 movies is not because the studio asks him to pump them out like Stephen King novels. He makes his movies because he has vision about something. They range from wild fantasies to slapstick comedies, but they've always had the mark of a true vision. Allen is now 75, and Midnight In Paris is as true an Allen film as I've ever seen. As the phenomenal opening sequence came to a close, I realized he's still got it. He's still able to make movies people care about. Midnight In Paris is about a guy with a dream.

One of the best things about Midnight In Paris is that the trailers don't give it away at all. Anyone who walks into the theater expecting exactly what they saw in the trailer is absolutely in for a treat. As a result, I don't want to talk about the plot, but prepare to see more of Allen's whackyness than he's shown in a while. In short, the story is about a writer named Gil (Owen Wilson) and his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) visiting Paris. While Inez looks at it more like a fun, but very temporary vacation, Gil falls in love with everything about it, especially thriving on the nostalgia of what it must have been like in the 20s. Gil is Allen's classic character who's in love with a fantasy. He's also Allen's classic character who is so neurotic that it's a wonder that any woman could ever stay with him.

I love Owen Wilson. He's the definition of an endearing actor, and he's one-upped both Allen and Allen's previous Woody-Prototype Larry David. For the first time, Woody Allen may have written an anxious, neurotic character that will appeal to everyone. Wilson is beyond lovable, and even in his faults do we find ourselves unconditionally siding with him through everything. He's got that quality of someone you know in real life, someone you trust and want to care about. For a movie like Midnight In Paris it's so important that Gil be played by someone like this. Allen nails it with Wilson.

In fact, the casting might be one of the best things about the movie. Michael Sheen plays someone so obnoxious that he makes your skin crawl, yet audiences may walk out of the theater with incredibly fond memories of him. Rachel McAdams' character is an unexpected choice for her as well; she's not the incredibly gorgeous and adorable Canucks-loving girl she usually plays, but actually quite a B-word. I'm proud of her for making the leap outside her comfort zone. However, it is not Wilson, nor Sheen, nor McAdams that steals the movie, but Adrien Brody. He's got only one scene, but by the end, my sides hurt I was laughing so hard.

Midnight In Paris is a wonderful movie. It's full to the brim with Allen's wit, his originality and his skill as a writer and a director. The number one reason this movie works is because it's about something. Remember when all movies used to be like that? Real people and real dreams, not stories about zookeepers and talking animals that go to TGI Fridays. It's not a Best Picture nominee by any means, but it's an uplifting fantasy that wound its way into my heart. Above all, Midnight In Paris is a return to the reasons I love movies so much. Woody, you've done it again.


4 stars

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