Ever visited a city and felt so entranced by it that you start imagining yourself living there? Wandering the streets and living out some long-lost glory years?
That’s Midnight in Paris, a remarkably infectious fantasy by Woody Allen, in a nutshell. Allen wraps the time-traveling premise in just barely enough story and thematic heft to give the thing shape, but this movie is all about a sense of romantic wonder distinctly felt when visiting Paris.
Darius Khondji shoots the film in enticing, golden hues that glow from streetlights and glimmer off canals. It’s a beautiful pastry of warm nostalgia in cinematographic form, almost Wes Andersonian in its devotion to color warmth.
The movie is excellently-cast, starting with the lead. Owen Wilson captures the blend of stammering exasperation and bewilderment that Woody Allen made famous, but with much less neurosis. It’s a wide-eyed puppy dog performance of a man totally enamored with the world around him.
Meanwhile, the supporting cast is uniformly great. Michael Sheen is delightfully annoying as a pretentious academic, and Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy make great overbearing parents-in-law. But the real treat is the cameos of time-traveling celebrities; there are litany of great turns — and significant joy in being surprised by them — but Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali and Alison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald are absolute scene-stealers. Rachel McAdams is solid, too, even if she never should have been cast as a resentful fiancée — she’s too adorable.
It’s a fun movie, one of the Allen’s most charming, but ultimately a bit too slight to rank at the top of his pantheon. By leaning so hard into nostalgia, it compromises its ability to land its pathos with any sort of punch; but then if it was any less carefree, Midnight in Paris would be nowhere near as enjoyable.
Very Good (6/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.