In the mood for a light, charming movie? Midnight in Paris is an undemanding fantasy where the lead character has a magical romantic adventure and learns a lesson about life along the way.
Woody Allen wrote and directed the film. Some have hailed it as his best movie in a decade, but that puts way too much of a burden on its unpretentious little shoulders (and it's not true, either. Rent Vicky Cristina Barcelona and see for yourself). Anyhoo, don't enter the theater with unrealistic expectations. Just prepare yourself for a pleasant trifle, an extra-fluffy meringue, an airy drink of ... something airy. Are you getting my message, ladies and gentlemen? The movie is effervescent, featherweight, frothy - hey, I've got a thesaurus open here, I can go on like this for paragraphs.
Owen Wilson, employing Woody Allen-style stammering without getting annoying about it, plays Gil, a successful Hollywood screenwriter working on a novel because he wants to be feel legitimate. Gil's an easygoing, likable fellow, so why is he on a pre-wedding vacation in Paris with Inez (Rachel McAdams), who is self-absorbed, materialistic and kinda abrasive?
Don't blame Inez. She's not bad, Woody Allen just wrote her that way, so we'd root for Gil to get away from her. Gil, whose love for Paris and its storied past appears stronger than his feelings for Inez, takes to walking the streets at night to drink in the romanticism of the City of Light.
Romantic notions turn true when the clock hits midnight and a vintage car pulls up. The party-goers in the roadster invite Gil in and he finds himself transported back to the Paris of the Golden Days, riding with none other than F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill). Congratulations to Woody the writer and Owen the actor for finding just the right level of awestruck-ness for Gil - enough for a reason-based man magically transported through time, but not so much as to prevent him from adapting to the situation. He can't believe he's hobnobbing with legends. To them, however, he's a peer - a writer with a promising book and an appealing manner.
The best parts of the film are Gil's nightly visits to the past, where he pals around with pointedly-direct man's man Ernest Hemingway (played amusingly, but somehow not cartoonishly, by Corey Stoll), gets advice from the remarkable and remarkably down-to-earth Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates, in fine form), and marvels at Salvador Dali. I won't list all the luminaries he encounters. Suffice to say that in addition to socializing with the greats, Gil gets a crush on the lovely Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who is dating Hemingway and Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo).
During the daytime hours, Inez complains about Gil's increasing distance, while her parents (Mimi Kennedy and Kurt Fuller) up their "tut-tutting" about their son-in-law to be. Dad even hires a detective to follow Gil at night, a subplot with a payoff that isn't funny enough to warrant the build-up. Michael Sheen is entertainingly irritating as a know-it-all who hovers around Inez.
In the end, the fairy-tale has a suitably happy ending and Gil learns a lesson. So there you go. The Purple Rose of Cairo it ain't, but Midnight in Paris is a pleasure, really. Just don't expect too much. Did I mention the movie is slight, trifling, airy ... oh hell, I said airy 479 words ago.