The past decade was not kind to an aging Mr. Allen. The indelible quality that made him one of the most illustrious filmmakers of the 1970s, with films such as “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan,” all but vanished. Before the curtain closed on Woody Allen’s career, the 75-year-old filmmaker once again found his stride with “Midnight in Paris.” A huge success both critically and commercially, “Midnight in Paris” is Woody Allen’s highest grossing film to date.
The film stars Owen Wilson as Gil, a Hollywood screenwriter who feels artistically unfulfilled with his career. Gil aspires to write fiction and achieve something similar to the literary giants that inspired him. He comes to Paris on vacation with his fiancée Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, and falls in love with the city. Paris ignites Gil’s artistic ambition, and he even suggests that he and Inez move there after they are married. Unfortunately, Inez does not share Gil’s adoration of Paris and leaves him to explore Paris’s elegant boulevards on his own.
During one of Gil’s evening walks, a taxi pulls up beside him and ushers him in. Gil is then transported back in time to Paris in the 1920s, his favorite era, where he is able to socialize with iconic figures such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald over evening cocktails and lavish parties. Gil even meets Adriana (Marion Cotillard), a bewitching socialite who shares Gil’s romantic ideals. However, this fantastical past is not Gil’s present and he struggles to decide between both women and time periods.
Wilson is incredibly charming and affable as Gil, as he tries to come to grips with this magical journey and attempts to quell his excitement when meeting his literary heroes. Cotillard, Adrien Brody and Michael Sheen also lend strong performances, but Allen gives most of the screen time to Paris and films with brilliant cinematography. The re-creation of Paris in the 1920s is luminous and without question the lifeblood of the film.
The success of “Midnight in Paris” is unforeseen and astounding. Allen, a constant combatant against the use of TV ads and marketing ploys, is rarely viewed by the Hollywood community as a breadwinner. He believes that if a film is good, then word of mouth and critical praise will translate into ticket sales. While most studios would cringe at this suggestion, Sony Picture Classics is laughing all the way to the bank. The film played in selected cities but its popularity had theatre owners calling for a nation-wide release with which Sony was happy to comply. It is now the second highest grossing film in Sony Pictures Classic history behind “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.”