Most people don't think romance when they think Woody Allen. Yet what are the characters in his films always longing for? Love. Even in his bitterest stories, the plot revolves around love: searching for it, finding it, losing it, complaining about it, envying it, stomping on it, taking it for granted, laughing at it, but sometimes, just sometimes, holding onto it. Midnight in Paris touches on all those aspects of love, and leaves us with a small ray of hope for holding on to it ourselves. Hapless writer Gil, played by Owen Wilson, is in Paris with his fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her parents. Gil is in love with the romance and beauty of the City of Light, but Inez's main interest is to shop for furniture for their new home in California.

Midnight in Paris touches on all those aspects of love, and leaves us with a small ray of hope for holding on to it ourselves. Late one night, Gil decides to walk back to their hotel rather than go dancing, and ends up getting lost. As the clock strikes midnight, an old-fashioned car pulls up, and the beautiful people inside invite him for a ride. They take him back in time, to Paris of the 1920s, an era when artists and revolutionaries smoked and drank late into the night, arguing about art and politics and living the life they wrote about and expressed in paintings. Gil meets Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), Cole Porter, Picasso, and Pablo's charming mistress, Adriana (Marion Cotillard). The next night, Gil tries to get Inez to return with him to the spot where the car picked him up, but she isn't interested in his stories of Paris long ago.
As the plot progresses, Gil continues to meet the midnight car that takes him to the past, becoming more and more enchanted with the people, the time, and especially Adriana. He meets writer and art maven Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), and she agrees to read and critique his novel. All the while, he and Inez are finding they have less and less in common. But the night he decides to take things farther with Adriana, a carriage rolls by and delivers them both even further back in time: to the Belle Epoque, where they encounter artists Lautrec, Gauguin and Degas.
Whether you like Woody Allen or not, there is no disregarding this gorgeous film. Though Allen has tampered with flights of surrealistic fancy in his films before (Alice, The Purple Rose of Cairo), Midnight in Paris combines that with the best of all his movies: original story and dialogue, clever humour, quirky, spot-on acting, unparalleled lighting and cinematography, charming music, and his particular way of making the city in which he's filming, (usually New York, London or Paris) a character in itself. He shows it off in at its most beautiful, and makes us fall in love with it too.
It's probably obvious that I'm a huge admirer of Woody Allen's work, but as a fan and writer of time-travel fiction, I'm drawn to Midnight in Paris for that aspect as well. The things that Gil does in the present affect the past, and vice versa, the ultimate message being that we tend to want most what has gone before. However, though I may romanticize Allen's "Manhattan" and "Annie Hall" period, the reality in which he creates films like Midnight in Paris is the one I want to live in.

Movie reviewed by Georgina Young-Ellis

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