Ben Oliver

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Midnight in Paris

That’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying.
20 June 2014

Watching Blue Jasmine triggered a minor Woody Allen splurge.

Here Owen Wilson stars as a Hollywood scriptwriter trying to write a novel. He’s visiting Paris with his philistine American family, and falls in love with the town. As he yearns for something he doesn’t have, he looks to the past for solace. His dream comes true on a street corner at midnight when a mysterious old car turns up and transports him to another time.

As an Annie Hall and Manhattan fan, I wasn’t expecting a concept film from Allen, but it works for him. He sets himself a framework to play with, and sticks nicely within those confines. This doesn’t have the sprawling dialogue or confused structure of Blue Jasmine, it’s tight, it’s fun and it’s thoughtful.

All the actors hold their own, Wilson isn’t great but he’s not unbearable and does the hopeless romantic schtick quite well. Rachel McAdams is ok as his fiancee, and her parents are funny in themselves but it’s a shame their actual jokes were a little cliche. That said with Wilson’s state of mind in the film it might be argued that they are shown through his eyes, as ‘typical Americans’. I’m probably reading too much into it though.

Michael Sheen nails his part as the slightly annoying, extrememly knowledgable college professor friend invited to lecture at the Sorbonne. I’m a fan of his as it is and I just loved seeing him in this role. He deadpans so well I was in tears. So many dramatic actors fail at these parts by overdoing it. Marion Cotillard was a little disappointing, she’s a solid actress but just didn’t seem to have the allure and intrigue that the script kept trying to hammer into her.

Midnight in Paris has a simple message, nothing wrong with that, but its delivery lets it down. Yes, it’s bad to live in the past, but do we really need a scene where Wilson’s character literally tells us this? Did we need to build up to a scene where someone actually chooses to live in the past? It’s a slap in the face, especially when some subtlety wouldn’t have been difficult.

This is a film that offers little more in depth than what you’ll see in its blurb, but it’s very enjoyable, well put together and well executed by Allen.