Amusingly written and directed with a light touch by Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris provides a quirky take on the fact that many people living in the present tend to glorify a certain time in the past. Moments of pleasantly low-key, witty humor are sprinkled throughout the proceedings, much to the viewer’s delight. This movie employs some clichés and lacks thematic depth, but that doesn’t stop it from being an engaging, irresistibly charming, and highly entertaining trifle. Here, the journey, not the destination, is what matters.
Several historical cultural celebrities appear in the movie: Cole Porter, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Luis Buñuel, among others. At one point in the film, unbeknownst to him, Buñuel finds himself in a time-travel version of the classic chicken-or-egg dilemma concerning one of his yet-to-be-made—or has it?—movies. Thankfully, one doesn’t have to know who those people are or what they are famous for in order to appreciate Midnight in Paris, but having that knowledge makes the experience of watching the movie a bit more rewarding.
Allen clearly knows how to capture the essence of a city on film. He has a lot of help from Darius Khondji’s sumptuous cinematography, the exquisite set design, and the well-chosen songs on the soundtrack. The opening sequence, which features picturesque images of Paris, no text, no dialogue, and no actors for what feels like five minutes, instantly establishes an almost spellbinding atmosphere. By taking full advantage of the gorgeous Parisian setting, the filmmakers ensure that the movie has a consistently alluring look and feel from beginning to end. After watching Midnight in Paris, one has the urge to take the next available flight to the French capital.
The cast members—Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard, and Adrien Brody, to name a few—deliver fine performances. Wilson shines in a serious role, and his facial expression when Gil, the character he plays in the movie, realizes what is going on perfectly conveys his character’s feelings of amazement in that scene.