Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris Resurrects the Lost Generation

Categories: Film and TV
Oewn Wilson as "Woody Allen" in beach-blond drag
A deceptively light time-travel romance, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris uses fairy-tale devices as a way to get to the filmmaker's familiar themes. A nebbishy screenwriter who longs to publish a novel, Gil (Owen Wilson) is working on a book set in a nostalgia shop--much to the open frustration of Inez (Rachel McAdams), his rich-girl fiancée.

The latest in a long line of actors playing a "Woody Allen type" in a Woody Allen film, Wilson bends his own recognizably nasal Texan drawl into an exaggerated pattern of staccatos and glissandos that's obviously modeled on the writer/director's near-musical verbal cadences; the word "lunatic," for instance, begins with a long, hard "LEW," modulated over three connecting notes. His performance--"Woody Allen" in quotes and beach-blond drag--adds an extra layer of distance to a script thick with allegory.

The couple has accompanied her parents on a trip to Paris, and one night Gil drunkenly wanders off alone. A car pulls up, the strangers inside offer him a ride, and the next thing we know, he is at a party full of flappers dancing to Cole Porter. When a vivacious young couple introduce themselves as Scott and Zelda, he comes to understand that he's been transported to Paris, circa the '20s.

Ernest Hemingway offers to show Gil's novel-in-progress to his good friend Gertrude Stein, so Gil runs out to grab his manuscript--and promptly gets lost in the present day. But the next night, another mysterious car drives up, and he is once again transported to his personal nostalgic paradise.

The high concept is a means, not an end: Allen's not terribly interested in inter-dimensional travel, but it's a backdoor way to investigate the problem of time--our inability to slow it down, to make anything good last or prevent inevitable misery--within ordinary life.

Look for our extended review in this week's issue.


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