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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Woody Allen makes art about art … and time travel

    In Gil Pender’s romantic mind, Paris is a paradise of groovy vibes, aged like fine Bordeaux by its artistic and social scenes of the 1920s. Gil (Owen Wilson) wants to give up scriptwriting in Los Angeles to finish his novel as a baguette-wielding artiste. His fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams), a WASP-y heiress, would rather hit the cinema for an American comedy than stroll the rainy banks of the Seine.

    It’s apparent that Gil and Inez view life in contrasting colors. The perceptual rift widens after Gil accidentally discovers a time-traveling touring car occupied, strangely enough, by Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald and pretty, jittery Zelda Fitzgerald.

    Consistent with fairy godmother rules, Gil’s magic carriage to the ‘20s operates only at midnight, and leaves him feeling naked when it disappears. Gil’s fantasy past becomes an irresistible distraction — and not just because he can get his manuscript critiqued by Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. Gil becomes infatuated with an old Picasso flame named Adriana (Marion Cotillard) and loses grip on his modern notions of l’amour.

    Wilson stutters charmingly through Woody Allen’s dialogue like it’s his neurotic birthright, but the funniest lines come from caricatures of famous artistic personalities. Adrien Brody plays a madcap Salvador Dalí, whose screen time is spent on exuberant proclamations of his own name and daydreams of rhinoceroses. Alison Pill flaps her mouth and her skirt in effervescent imitation of Zelda Fitzgerald. Corey Stoll dominates every scene as the pugilist poet Hemingway, all fired up by whiskey and an itch to box the grim reaper’s ears.

    Escapism is the thematic Eiffel Tower jutting electrically from the movie’s surface. Paul (Michael Sheen), a pedantic bastard who acts more than just friendly with Inez, diagnoses Gil with “”Golden Age Syndrome,”” a state of obsession over an idealized past as a means of escaping an ugly present. Escape drives Gil on nightly walks away from shallow Inez and into the unreal depths of his literary heroes. Escape drives Porter to play piano, Zelda to dance and Hemingway to have sex. Escape drives you and me to the movies, and allows us to be moved by them.

    Eventually, Gil realizes that for every problem he runs from in the present (war, acid rain, bitchy fiancee, etc.) he will be greeted by two more in the past (poverty, tuberculosis, clingy mistress, yada yada). It is a poignant reminder that life sucks no matter when you’re born — but as long as there is art, there will be beauty.

    “”Midnight in Paris”” isn’t as sexy as “”Vicky Cristina Barcelona,”” or as darkly probing as “”Match Point,”” but its message is more sweet and applicable than either. If you pine for the past — hell, if you pine for anything — let yourself escape into this movie.

    Final grade: A

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