parisBeware The Taxi

Stars: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen and Carla Bruni
Director/Scriptwriter: Woody Allen
Mediapro/Sony Classics
Running Length: 100 minutes
Rating: PG 13
Woody Allen is back with a nostalgia film that also incorporates love, future in-laws, writer’s block and time travel. What a pleasant mix. Allen wrote and directs the film with a cast list of just about any one in Hollywood who can read a script. The actors probably couldn't turn it down, as we see actors portray such literary artists and writers from the past as F. Scott Fitzgerald (“Thor’s” Tom Hiddleston), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Zelda Fitzgerald (Alison Pill), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), Henri Matisse (Yves-Antoine Spoto), T. S. Eliot (David Lowe), Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec (Vincent Menjou Cortes), Paul Gauguin (Olivier Rabourdin), Edgar Degas (Francois Rostain), Josephine Baker (Sonia Rolland) and a museum guide (France’s first lady, Carla Bruni). So you see, after midnight in Paris is really magical, and the ambience of the time periods (now and years past) make you believe in the story.
The premise of the film is what the artist needs to survive. Is it an enriching atmosphere or one of art-snobbery?  Gil (Owen Wilson) is a writer, engaged to Inez (Rachel McAdams) and on a trip to Paris with her wealthy parents, John (Kurt Fuller) and Wendy (Mimi Kennedy.) They clearly don't like Gil, considering him beneath them socially. Enter Inez’s former boyfriend, Paul (Michael Sheen) and his wife, Carol (Nina Arianda). Paul can do a put-down like no one else and when Inez prefers their company to Gil’s, it is a problem. Gil starts finding excuses for not being with either the family or Inez’ friends. He’s “working” on his novel as Paris is “inspirational” for writers, especially after nightfall.  Now the fun begins. On one of his midnight strolls, Gil takes a taxi ride, only he goes back in time to the 1920’s and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali and a host of other literary giants. They greet Gil like an equal and he is mesmerized. Stein wants to critique his novel, the Fitzgerald’s want to party with him and so on. Gil also meets the beautiful Adriana (Marion Cotillard) who is chased by most of the male population in Paris. Back in the real world, life goes on as dreary as before. Gil is beginning to lose himself in time and can't wait for midnight to come. Inez is perplexed, but Gil is happy for the first time in a long time. Can this last? There are a few twists to the story and one involves a private detective Inez’s father hires to follow Gil. Paris is magic no matter what time you are in. Love can be found in unusual places, you just have to look.
It may take a bit to get used to the casting of Luke Wilson as Gil. Wilson usually stars in broad comedy, but here, his expressive face is fine for the time shifts. Rachel McAdams and her family and friends do tourists just right, and that is what they are, tourists. Gil is an adventurer and finds adventure. Of the host of actors playing literary figures, the best are Corey Stoll as a young Ernest Hemingway, Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein. Photography is very good ranging from present day to past Paris. Soundtrack is jazz personified.
All in all, Midnight in Paris is a pleasant surprise. If you were not a Woody Allen fan before, you may take in this film with its diverse theme. A room of literary giants in their prime or beginning their careers is heady, indeed, and Allen pulls it off here. Enjoy.
Copyright 2011 Marie Asner