2011 Running time: 94 Certificate: 12 Rating: 4

Synopsis

Woody Allen refinds his magic touch – and won the Original Screenplay Oscar to prove it - with this witty and irresistibly whimsical love letter to the City of Lights. Owen Wilson plays Gil, a Hollywood screenwriter who comes to Paris with his shallow fiancée (Rachel McAdams) but keeps finding himself back in the 1920s, rubbing shoulders with some of the most influential artists and writers of the modern age. Yet while everyone from Hemingway to Dali provides inspiration and advice, Gil is in thrall to another muse (Marion Cotillard). Past or present, you're in for a great time.

Director

  • Woody Allen

Cast

  • Owen Wilson

  • Rachel McAdams

  • Marion Cotillard

  • Michael Sheen

  • Adrien Brody

  • Carla Bruni

Review

For the last two decades, anything that hasn't been an eye-rolling disappointment from Woody Allen has been hailed as a "return to form".

So after all that crying wolf, it's a pleasure to announce that Midnight In Paris is the real deal.

The great American public clearly agrees. Yet while overtaking Hannah And Her Sisters as Woody's biggest moneyspinner, it comes to these shores on an even greater wave of hype generated by the casting of France's first lady, Carla Bruni.

So let's get her out of the way first. She plays a museum guide. She has three small scenes. She is fine.

Happy? Bien. Now on to the main business, which begins with Wilson's amiable but disenchanted movie writer Gil arriving in Paris with his hard-to-please fiancée Inez (McAdams) and her equally dismissive parents for a business trip.

Gil hopes the city will inspire both his first novel and his somewhat loveless relationship. Unfortunately, Ines would rather spend time with her insufferable friend Paul, a smug know-all amusingly played by Michael Sheen.

So one night after a few drinks, Gil leaves them to it. But on the stroke of midnight, he is lured into a vintage car full of revellers... and suddenly finds himself at a ritzy party with Cole Porter playing the piano and Mr and Mrs F. Scott Fitzgerald (Thor's brother Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill) introducing him to Josephine Baker and the rest of their famous friends.

In the morning, Gil is back at his hotel. But every night he goes back to meet more of the artistically great and the literary good: Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), T.S. Eliot, Luis Bunuel, Henri Matisse...

Incroyable though they all are, the most compelling reason for Gil's nightly returns is Adriana (Cotillard), a former lover of Picasso who shows him the true meaning of romance.

After all the middle-aged angst and vaguely creepy starlet-worshipping of the last few years, it's great to see Allen embrace his light side and put on his nostalgia goggles again.

Allen offers no explanation for the time skips but, since he creates such an engagingly whimsical mood, he doesn't need to. Delving into the science fictional mechanics would only spoil the illusion.

Despite the inescapably bohemian atmosphere, Allen happily pokes a finger in the eye of pretension, making heaps of witty observations while steering clear of anything too profound.

With the impossible-to-dislike Wilson as the centre of attention and a visual palette that turns every scene into a chocolate box, you're in for a lightly sophisticated and unabashedly romantic treat.

Only first-time visitors to Paris are in for disappointment: it simply can't live up to this.