REVIEW: “Midnight in Paris”


Without a doubt the romantic comedy is one of the weaker movie genres and has been for years. But sometimes we get a special gem that reminds us of just how fun these types of movies can be. “Midnight in Paris”, written and directed by Woody Allen, is a crash course in the art of making a romantic comedy. It is loaded with heart and feeling and doesn’t trudge down the same path as so many failed films of this genre. It’s a movie that captures the magic of it’s location and the inner workings of it’s characters. It’s clever and unique while maintaining a true romantic feel and sense of humor.

“Midnight in Paris” opens with a picturesque three-minute montage focusing on the beauty of Paris, France. It gracefully moves from one exquisitely framed shot to another, showing us historical landmarks, museums, cafes, and more all set to the lovely “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere”. It elegantly sets up the city of Paris as not only a central character in the film, but an enchanting and magical force whose influence is seen throughout the picture. In many ways Woody Allen is celebrating Paris. He wants us to love the city and appreciate the mystique of it’s rich history just as much as his main character does. Allen’s desire works. I was instantly grabbed and found myself totally lost in what I was seeing on the screen.


While Paris is at the heart of the story, the main character is Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), a hack Hollywood screenwriter who is visiting the city with his fiancée and her parents. Gil loves everything about Paris and to this day regrets his decision not to move there when he had a chance several years ago. He feels he was meant for more than writing screenplays but he struggles with confidence. He doesn’t feel comfortable in today’s world and believes he would be a better fit in the 1920s. His fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) is a spoiled momma’s girl who spends more time insulting Gil than supporting him. There is clearly a disconnect between the two. He loves Paris and she doesn’t. He’s working on a novel that he thinks will change his career and she thinks he’s wasting his time. He enjoys the small details in life while she would rather milk it for it’s benefits.

While in Paris they run into Paul (Michael Sheen), Inez’s old friend and self-proclaimed expert on everything from art to French culture to fine wines. Inez seems infatuated with Paul’s knowledge regardless of how many facts he gets wrong in his efforts to impress everyone. Needing to get away, Gil takes off on a late night walk. After getting lost, he is picked up by a group of partiers in an old classic car who magically transport him back to 1920s Paris. Here he meets many of his literary and artistic heroes such as Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso, and Stein. He also meets the lovely Adriana (played wonderfully by Marion Cotillard) who he grows more attracted to with each midnight visit.

The fantasy turn of Allen’s story did feel a bit out of the blue at first but it didn’t take long before I was enthralled with what I was seeing. Gil’s golden age is recreated flawlessly from the music and atmosphere to the careful attention to detail. I loved seeing these authors, painters, composers, and filmmakers of old fleshed out through some fantastic performances. Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill are absolutely brilliant as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. I also loved Marcial Di Fonzo Bo as Picasso and Adrien Brody as Dali, both in smaller but fun roles. And then there’s Corey Stoll as Hemingway who steals many of the scenes he’s in. The supporting cast is such a wonderful ingredient to the film’s charm.


But in terms of acting it’s Owen Wilson that really blew me away. In many ways he plays a character that really fits him. We’ve seen elements of this performance in other roles of his but here everything is perfectly measured and controlled. Even though Woody Allen has stated he gave Wilson a lot of room to work, it’s clear that Allen has a solid influence on his performance. I’ve been really lukewarm concerning most of Wilson’s past work but he really, really impressed me here. He dials it back a bit and never allows his performance to drown out the material.

“Midnight in Paris” does call for the audience to just buy into it’s fantasy angle and if you struggle with that you may struggle with this picture. It also turns out to be fairly predictable in places. But these small gripes do nothing to kill the magic of this picture for me. This is certainly a love letter to Paris, but it’s also a lesson on living in the present. Allen reminds us that the golden age so many long for isn’t that different from where we are now. It’s a beautiful film both visually and structurally and it moves along at an almost poetic pace. Better yet, “Midnight in Paris” is a film that gives us hope for a struggling genre. I love this movie.




43 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Midnight in Paris”

  1. Marvelous review, Keith. We’re really seeing eye to eye lately. Loved that you gave this 5 stars, since I adore this movie. It was my favorite of 2011 and probably my favorite by Woody. Just beautiful.

    • Yes! As I mentioned elsewhere, when I originally wrote this review I gave it 4.5 stars. But I’ve seen it probably 5 more times since then and it has grown on me even more. I love it.

    • Exactly. This is another movie review that I posted a while back but never received any comments (I’m doing that all week while I’m on vacation). I had it at 4.5 stars but have seen it many times since I wrote it. I changed the score for this posting and it’s all due to my experience after rewatching it a few times. It made a difference for me.

  2. Excellent review Keith and very glad you gave this such a high score. It’s not very often films like this come around and its not very often you get to see an actor like Owen Wilson do a 360 and delve into a genre he’s not used to and succeed.

  3. Rom-coms are the original “Blockbuster” movies, so yes–it might be weak, but if it’s a “hit,” it comes off as a warm experience. That was Midnight in Paris for me. And Woody Allen is so, so fine when it comes to this sublimity.

    • Well said. I think it hits on what made all those classic romantic comedies great. Loads of charm, really smart writing, and a strong cast. Perfect ingredients.

  4. Ahah, I had no doubt you’re gonna give this a 5 Keith! But I gave this movie a 4.5 and this coming from a non-Woody Allen fan. I even bought the BD and it’s still awesome on rewatch. There’s just so much to love here, I even like Owen Wilson in the lead though normally I don’t have a high opinion of him.

    • We are so much on the same page! I do t carry much for Allen or Wilson. Still I love why both do here. I remember first seeing it and remembering how it caught me so off guard!!!

  5. I was planning to review this recently, but I guess you somehow channeled my exact thoughts. Excellent review, Keith! 😀

  6. Magical Realism is awesome. This film is a great example. How cool to find a portal and climb back in time to visit the 20s in Paris! I loved how much of the exterior shots of the city was in the rain. Paris wet and sparkling was great to see.

  7. Great review. This film has one of the very best scripts of recent years for sure. I did feel that it might have been a little confusing for people who didn’t really know who the characters were meant to be (I knew most of them though so wasn’t an issue). I think the success of this, and the fantasy elements proves that Allen has to stretch himself. This film is far more enjoyable than a lot of his other recent efforts which are really just Woody Allen’s schtick.

  8. Bravo! A classy “grass is always greener” plot told in such a beautiful way. I loved this and Owen Wilson surprised me as well. Woody Allen has disappointed me since this film. So glad you gave this one such high marks. Great review

  9. Pingback: Midnight in Paris | The Reel Voice

  10. Pingback: » Movie Review – As Above, So Below Fernby Films

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