Review: Midnight In Paris

**** (PG)

Director: Woody Allen.

Cast: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hiddleston, Alison Pill, Corey Stoll.

HAVE you ever yearned to live in a different time? Do you feel the 21st century doesn't stack up against bygone eras?

It's this notion of nostalgia and so-called Golden Age Syndrome that drives Woody Allen's intriguing and enjoyable new film.

A mixture of romantic-comedy, time travel fantasy, travelogue, and existential examination, Midnight In Paris centres on the city of the title and its effect on writer Gil Pender (played with typically Allen-esque neuroticism by Wilson).

Gil is to be married to Inez (McAdams) and the pair are holidaying in Paris to catch up with Inez's parents while Gil attempts to complete his novel, hoping to be inspired by the romantic city.

But while staggering home drunk one night after a few too many French wines, Gil finds himself transported to 1920s Paris - a time when novelists such as F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway rubbed shoulders with the likes of Cole Porter, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

Allen's film is a love letter to the French capital - both in its modern incarnation and in particular the between-war era when the city became a focal point for creativity and artistic types.

With subtle humour and great intelligence he explores the trap of nostalgia and the dangers of being unable to move forward, while still finding lessons to learn from the past. Having said that, there's still a strong thread of romanticism through the film, as explored through the love of a city, the love of art, or the love of a beautiful woman.

Wilson proves a brilliant front for Allen, whose lead males are usually thinly veiled version of himself - the blond Californian is perfectly suited to those natural-sounding ramblings and delivering self-deprecating witticisms. In fact, this is Wilson's best performance to date.

The rest of the cast is great, with McAdams, Sheen and Cotillard all spot on in the straighter roles, while Stoll has deadpan fun as Hemingway, Hiddleston relishes the chance to play Fitzgerald, Adrien Brody is wonderful in a brief appearance as Dali, and Kathy Bates brings her usual forceful presence to that of writer Gertrude Stein.

Allen's films are not to all tastes, but this is charmingly accessible. Some will find themselves bored within the first three minutes, which is composed entirely of beautiful images of Paris, but that is part of the enchanting appeal of this film - Allen wants you to love Paris as much as Gil does and wants to show you the magic, the romance and the spark the city holds for him, much as Allen did with the cities of Spain in 2008's Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

And finally, no, I didn't review Twilight: Breaking Dawn for two reasons - 1) people are going to see that movie no matter what any reviewer says, and 2) I would like to keep intact my admirable run of having never seen a Twilight movie.

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