Having a Woody Allen flick in midstate theaters at all is a minor event in itself for movie lovers. but having one as good as "Midnight in Paris" is a flat-out reason to celebrate.
It's also the first time that I can remember a Woody Allen movie being in the box office top 10, as this has been for a few weeks, and it's well deserved. Though not as great as Allen's best movies - which for me will always be topped by "Manhattan" - it does share with those flicks an extremely strong sense of place, here Paris rather than his early home base of NYC, and adds to it an often irresistible embrace of life and art, along with the city itself.
As the movie opens, we meet Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams), an American couple engaged to be married and on vacation in Paris thanks to the largesse of her parents. And it's clear from the outset that Gil, Wilson doing his best to channel Allen now that the director has finally realized he's simply too old to do so himself, is less than thrilled, both with the company he's keeping on the voyage and also with his impending marriage. Though many of his best bits have already been revealed in commercials and trailers for this flick, keep an eye out for the very funny Michael Sheen as half of a fellow young couple on vacation in Paris, particularly the face he makes at a wine tasting. Just pure comedy gold.
But its Wilson who manages to embody the spirit of Allen, from all his neuroses even down to more charm than the director himself has shown for many years, and that's key to how much you're willing to suspend reason and just dive into the crazy world of what comes next. As Gil, seeking both release from his traveling companions and inspiration to finish his novel, is walking through the city of light at the titular hour, he encounters a series of familiar faces who transport him back in time to the 1920s.
It starts with Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and continues with a who's who of giants of the literary and art world of the era, and the gimmick only starts to get old just before Allen wisely wraps things up. Keep an eye out for Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway and Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali, both of whom eat up their parts for some of the movie's funniest moments, and the thoroughly beguiling Marion Cotillard as Gil's muse, Adrianna.
What keeps all this madness going with an entertaining spirit until Gil discovers the truth he so sorely needs is a genuine infusion of both whimsy and fantasy, more of both than Allen has shown since "Bullets over Broadway" or way back with "Broadway Danny Rose." The bottom line is it's just Allen having a whole lot of fun, and if this flick manages to stick around at the AmStar Cinemas 16 in Macon and Galleria Mall Stadium Cinemas 15 in Centerville for another week and you can catch it, I guarantee you will too.