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Woody Allen Pays Homage to City of Light

'Midnight in Paris' recalls the past, looks to the present

0wen Wilson channels Woody Allen and Rachel McAdams is his materialistic girlfriend in 'Midnight in Paris.'
0wen Wilson channels Woody Allen and Rachel McAdams is his materialistic girlfriend in 'Midnight in Paris.'

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Penelope Poulou

Woody Allen taps into the allure of a bygone era in "Midnight in Paris." The acclaimed filmmaker captures a picture-perfect Paris and presents an intimate story in a centuries-old city only to remind us that, as much as we glorify the past, it's best to live in the present.  

Gil, an American screen writer, and his fiancée, Inez, take a romantic trip to Paris. Gil is smitten with Inez but the two are worlds apart. He wants to live the Bohemian life in Paris writing novels. She is materialistic, impressed by status and attached to her ultra-conservative parents, who are in Paris with the couple so the father can clinch a business deal.

The relationship between Inez and Gil begins to disintegrate. Things get especially tense when Inez meets up with old friends; her girlfriend from college and her fiancée, Paul, a professor at the Sorbonne who's a pretentious know-it-all.

Gil has had enough of Paul. He wants to be alone. As he strolls along the quaint Parisian streets, the clock strikes midnight.

All of a sudden, he's transported back to the 1920s, where he meets Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and the American writer Ernest Hemingway.

And he falls in love, for real this time, with Adriana, an alleged mistress of Picasso, played by Marion Cotillard. Every night, Gil visits an enchanted past and every morning he wakes up in the 21st century.  

Woody Allen delivers this fairytale with wit and comic lightness, while treating us to a magical Paris.

“I wanted to show the city emotionally, the way I felt about it," says Allen."It didn’t matter how real it was or what it reflected. I just wanted it to be the way I saw Paris, Paris through my eyes.”

Owen Wilson stars in Woody Allen's 'Midnight in Paris.'
Owen Wilson stars in Woody Allen's 'Midnight in Paris.'

To portray the great intellectuals of the time, Allen cast a group of A-list actors such as Adrian Brody, who plays Salvador Dali.

“You know this was the first time I had accepted to play Dali," Brody says. "I have been offered this role several times in different incarnations. It was a relatively limited glimpse of that man in his life so I spent a great deal of my time researching the shape of the rhinoceros. That’s all.”

Along with the superstars, Carla Bruni, the first lady of France, has a small role as a museum guide.

Like Paris, the film enchants. But the rendition of an ethereal City of Light is out of step with the dialogue, which lacks depth. Owen Wilson, as Gil, mimics Woody Allen's style so much that it distracts. We feel we’re watching a young Woody Allen. As Inez, Rachel McAdams is a convincing shrew but her performance is too theatrical.

There are many hilarious moments as well as magic in the midnight Paris air. But, like whimsy, this film has no lasting power.

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