Midnight In Paris
Directed by Woody Allen
Nostalgic, hilarious, and wonderfully unique, Midnight In Paris already ranks as one of my all-time favorite Woody Allen movies.
Owen Wilson stars as a man out of his time, which they describe in this movie as "Golden age thinking" -- the belief that the day and age that you live in (or, the present) is not where you truly belong. He portrays this character perfectly, providing an often humorous, and insanely relatable leading performance.
Not since Field Of Dream has there been a fantasy movie in this vein that has unfolded so well. Allen doesn't try to explain how or why at midnight on a street corner in Paris Owen Wilson finds himself able to travel back in time, but that is part of what makes this fantasy work: A simple method of time-travel that doesn't have to explain itself, because it doesn't take itself too seriously.
As one could expect from a Woody Allen picture, Midnight In Paris is handled like the true work of a genius. Filled with hilarious and honest insight on the world of pseudo-intellectuals (and genuine intellectuals alike), art, and the perception of art, there are few opportunities for laughs and observation that go to waste. If Allen doesn't garner at least a nomination for this screenplay (how could he not?), the Academy would be making their biggest mistake since the Saving Private Ryan fiasco of 1998.
This brings me to the set design. I obviously wasn't alive during the 1920s, and even if I was, I was not in Paris at that time. This, however, does not stop me from admiring the attention to detail. I felt as I was watching this movie that I, myself, had been transported back in time. With enjoyable characters (who, at times, almost feel like caricatures of the people they are based on) and a generally lively atmosphere, it's hard not to become a bit of a "Golden age thinker" yourself while watching this picture.
To both understand and enjoy this movie to its full extent, it helps to know more about the time and place. Salvador Dali's fascination with rhinoceros', and Luis Bunuel's confusion over the plot of The Exterminating Angel are minor jokes that will likely be lost on many viewers, but don't mistake this for a movie that requires historical research to enjoy -- it's still a fantastic comedy.
I rarely find myself enjoying a movie from beginning to end as much as I did Midnight In Paris. It may not change the world of cinema, but in the end, it did exactly what a great movie is supposed to do: Entertain and captivate.