Midnight in Paris review (DVD)

So now it's Owen Wilson's turn to adopt the Woody Allen role in the writer-director's latest offering, that of the flustered individual dealing awkwardly with his wayward lovelife and troubled entanglements. He's the ideal choice for the role - likeable and charming in eliciting warm smiles as the outlandish situation he finds himself in becomes ever more surreal. And my, it's a doozy of a set-up.

He plays Hollywood screenwriter Gil, a Francophile holidaying in the French capital with his fiancee (McAdams) and her disapproving parents (Fuller and Kennedy). One night while out walking alone, an old hansome cab drives up and the occupants beckon him in. He soon finds himself whisked to the Paris of the '20s, attending a party where he meets Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (Hiddleston and Pill) as Cole Porter entertains the guests on the piano.  The Fitzgeralds introduce him to Ernest Hemingway (Stoll) who in turn gains him access to the residence of Gertrude Stein (Bates). He asks these two legends to read the manuscript of the book he's just written. His assignations with the celebrities of the golden age only occur after midnight however, so his wife-to-be soon becomes mystified by his increasingly erratic behaviour during the daytime. Especially when he comes across Adriana (Cotillard), the muse and lover of Pablo Picasso. Gil falls in love with her as she represents everything he loves about the city and the era he would most like to live his life. But she herself hearkens to live in an even earlier bygone age.

It's a winning scenario and Allen's impish direction is sly and fresh. The theory that the past is always a better age to live in than the present is persuasively developed and the writer-director keeps the proceedings fluid and funny. Wilson anchors it all with his engaging, befuddled persona - his sense of wonderment and confusion is delightful to behold. while the supporting cast have a great time in making his colliding worlds, past and present, bristle with comic dilemmas. Michael Sheen, for example, is amusing as a smarmy and arrogant lecturer who professes to know everything there is to know about a given subject in the modern day while Adrien Brody crops up for one scene in the classic age as Salvador Dali, drawing laughs as he enthuses about his art work on rhinoceroses.

All the cast acquit themselves well in fact, including Carla Bruni. She appears only briefly as a guide at the Rodin museum, but doesn't embarrass herself, and she looks lovely.

It's certainly not one of Allen's best, but is nevertheless a most agreeable escapade - sweet, sincere and witty. And the fact that it's now become the artist's most financially successful picture ever is testament to the fact that Allen can still deliver the goods. Very enjoyable.

EXTRAS Not a cracker.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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