midnight paris Review 2001

In his bitter 1980 movie “Stardust Memories,” Woody Allen played a director whose fans insisted he abandon his important new work and get back to his roots.

You know, those “earlier, funnier movies.”

Well, that movie character wouldn’t like to hear this — and the real filmmaker may not either. But Allen’s new “Midnight in Paris” is a lot like his earlier, funnier movies. And it’s far and away his sunniest effort since “Mighty Aphrodite.”

The set-in-France film starts with a couple of tried-and-true Allen elements — the smart, creative guy (who worries he isn’t realizing his potential), the sexy girlfriend (who is, nonetheless, exasperating) and the know-it-all third-wheel (who may become a rival). So far, so what?

But then ……

Well, wait a second.

What happens then is a surprise, but also crucial to talking about the movie. On one hand, the trailers have kept it under wraps, as Allen obviously prefers; on the other, early notices have already given it away, so perhaps I shouldn’t worry.

But I do. So if you want to go in unprepared, go, and join us here online later. If you want to be forewarned, keep reading.

Because when midnight strikes in the film, with it comes a nightly enchantment — our hero, Gil, is taken back to his favorite era, the Paris of the ’20s, when women flitted from artist to artist like butterflies and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway argued ideas.

And Gil falls in love — both with the time and with a lovely disciple of Coco Chanel.

This is classic Allen — longtime fans will remember the wonderful “A Twenties Memory” from “Getting Even” — but it gets a nice twist by casting Owen Wilson in the lead. That immediately detours things in a fresh, Laid-back Dude direction instead of down the usual Angsty New Yorker avenues.

The rest of the large cast — which ranges from France’s current first lady, Carla Bruni, to Marion Cotillard as Wilson’s new flame — is fine, too. Particularly hysterical are Corey Stoll as a relentlessly macho Hemingway, and Adrien Brody as the already odd Dalí.

Of course, some of what’s going on here is simple name-dropping (“Tom Eliot? Thomas Stearns Eliot?!”), and the real intellectuals — the ones Allen has always felt in awe of — will complain of the CliffsNotes clichés and didja-get-it? jokes. (“Djuna Barnes?” Gil says of one dance partner. “No wonder she kept trying to lead!”)

And it’s true that’s what here — besides the smart observation that we tend to be nostalgic for experiences we never had — hardly rivals previous Allen fantasies like “The Purple Rose of Cairo” or “Zelig.” The film’s beginning is a bit slow and its happy ending suggests that Allen’s uncomfortable idealization of girlish females is still alive and unwell.

But between that drawn-out start and barely there finish is a lovely little comedy that artfully re-creates two wonderful, long-gone pasts — the ’20s of Braque and Buñuel, and the ’70s of giddy, goofy, just-thrilled-to-be-amusing Woody. And it’s a pleasure to have both briefly back.

Ratings note: The film contains some sexual innuendo.

Midnight in Paris
(PG-13) Sony Pictures Classics (100 min.)
Directed by Woody Allen. With Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard. Now playing in New York. Opens in New Jersey on June 3.

Enjoy with Midnight paris movie.........


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