I can see why this is Woody Allen’s most successful film in a long time. It’s a bit daft, a lot of fun, and straightforwardly high concept. That concept being: each night as the clock strikes 12 a writer is transported from contemporary Paris to the city in the twenties where he rubs shoulders with his literary heroes.
Hollyood screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson) is holidaying in Paris with cold fish fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her ghastly parents (Mimi Kennedy and Kurt Fuller). To make matters worse, they bump into Inez’s pretentious friend Paul (Michael Sheen) who hangs around like a bad smell. Suffice to say, it’s not the greatest trip. Although Gil loves the city, he’s on a very different page to his travelling companions. Separated from the others one night, something magical happens and he ends up partying with the likes of Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll). Each night he slips away to enjoy an adventure into the past – a time he considers to be The Golden Age.
Although the film is charming the means by which Gil makes this magical transition to the twenties is, admittedly, a bit crap. It’s not the lack of spectacle of his time travelling that’s a problem. We need nothing as dramatic as a DeLorean reaching a speed of 88mph. Or even, for that matter, any explanation for the time shift. The simplicity of it is a good thing but I don’t think Woody entirely sussed out how this universe functions. Couldn’t he have got Damon Lindelof to do a tweak? (Joke.) At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter because the film is so much fun. Colourful cameos abound in a plethora of icons of the arts. As well as the aforementioned, Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Cole Porter (Yves Heck), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody) are just a few of the others. All of these famous names are played with enough seriousness to convince and Allen’s direction keeps things light.
With Allen staying behind the camera Owen Wilson is effectively ‘The Woody Role’ just as say, John Cusack in Bullets Over Broadway or more recently Larry David in Whatever Works. This time, though, with Wilson (obviously) not a Jewish East Coaster, I thought we might be in for something different but - just like John Cusack etc - every line he delivers sounds like one that Woody should deliver himself. Admittedly, it might be my own issue but it did draw me out of the film somewhat. Quibbles aside, Midnight in Paris is a delight and proves that Woody Allen has still got it.