It’s that special time of year folks. Every year, for the last 35 (ever since 1977’s Annie Hall), regular as a bran-eating pensioner, normally around nowish but always in plenty of time to qualify for the Oscars, Woody Allen has released a film.
It’s that special time of year folks. Every year, for the last 35 (ever since 1977’s Annie Hall), regular as a
bran-eating pensioner, normally around nowish but always in plenty of time to
qualify for the Oscars, Woody Allen has released a film.
Sometimes they’ve been funny.
Sometimes they’ve been serious.
More often than not they’ve involved a neurotic, nebbish intellectual
(often played by Woody himself), usually a writer, falling for a younger
woman. Woody just can’t help
himself when it comes to the young stuff.
All your deeply middle-class friends will tell you how good it is. The critics will heap it with praise,
applauding it as a long-awaited return to form and his best film in years. It’ll be nominated for Academy Awards
but will rarely win any and Woody will spend Oscar night playing clarinet in a
Manhattan jazz club pretending he doesn’t care. Just like last year.
And the year before that.
And the year before that.
It may be dawning on some of you that I am not a Woody Allen fan.
This week, with very little fanfare, Woody Allen’s latest film Midnight
In Paris hits our screens and all Woody’s favourite obsessions are present and
correct. Thankfully, at 75, Woody
obviously feels a little ungainly traipsing the streets of Paris in search of
nubile trim, so he’s cast Frat Pack-stalwart and nasal whiner Owen Wilson as
his neurotic stand-in.
Gil (Owen Wilson) is a Hollywood screenwriter holidaying in Gay Paree
with his uptight fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams), her rich, loathsome parents and
pseudo-intellectual friend Paul (Michael Sheen) and his wife. As this bunch of philistines denigrate
the city Gil loves and is inspired by, he finds himself drunkenly wandering the
streets agonising over the manuscript of his novel. As luck would have it, on the stroke of midnight, a car full
of drunken revellers, Zelda and F.Scott Fitzgerald among them, shanghais Gil
back to the 1920s and pretty soon he’s hanging out with Hemingway, getting
advice on his novel from Gertrude Stein (the always wonderful Kathy Bates),
pitching ideas to Bunel and falling in love with Picasso’s latest muse Adriana
(Marion Cotillard). Then it’s off
to the Belle Epoque for dinner and absinthe with Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaugin and
Degas. Will Gil dump Inez and live
in the past with Adriana? Is Gil just
running away from life? And what
does Gertrude Stein think of his book?
Like a slightly more charming episode of the BBC’s charmless time-travel
sit-com Goodnight Sweetheart, Midnight In Paris is whimsical
fluff that feels a little like an advert for the French Tourist Board crossed
with that episode of The Simpsons where the family went to
London on holiday just so Tony Blair and Richard Branson could have
cameos. Look! There’s French First Lady and chanteuse
Carla Bruni as a tour guide! It’s
all a bit gorgeous, as picture postcard a vision of Paris as his visions of New
York and London. This is a
litter-free Paris where a drunk American can wander the streets late at night,
free from mugging and beggars. This
is a Paris that doesn’t smell of wee.
In short, this is a fantasy Paris, a Paris of the mind.
Wilson makes a refreshingly affable, laid-back Woody stand-in and Marion
Cotillard plays down her usual crazy as the big-eyed temptation from the past
while the likes of Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody and Tom Hiddleston are on fine
comic form as the historical buddies Gil makes who advise him on life, art,
writing and love. Brody is
particularly funny as Salvador Dali who sees absolutely nothing odd about Gil’s
surreal, tangled, time-travelling love-life.
Neither as great as Woody Allen fans will want it to be, nor as bad as I
wanted it to be, Midnight In Paris is frothy, lightweight fun
you’ll have forgotten by this time next week. Apparently, he’s shooting his next film in Rome. Can’t wait.