Paris is a wonderful, cultured city and in Woody Allen’s 2011 film it’s literally magical.
Screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson) and his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) are on holiday in Paris with Inez’s family. When Gil goes for a walk around Paris at midnight he finds himself back in 1920’s Paris meeting novelists and other creative figures from the era. Soon Gill is taking nightly walks back into the 1920’s while Inez’s family grow infuriated with Gil’s secrecy.
The film is about nostalgia and living in the past. Wilson’s Gill enjoys the 1920’s so much he might miss out on what is happening in his present, and right under his nose. Yet it’s easy to see why he’s so enamoured by the past where he’s viewing the creativity and passion of those around him. Compared to his successful but dreary life as a Hollywood screenwriter he feels inspired by their presence of such figures from the past with such creative freedom. The premise also gives plenty of opportunities for cameos for such figures as F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and Gertrude Sten (Kathy Bates). There’s also another great supporting turn from Michael Sheen as the condescending friend of Inez.
On the downside this film is probably best enjoyed if you know your 1920’s writers and artists. Some of the figures I recognised but some of the in-jokes flew right over my head. It may find itself alienating some viewers. Also I know Inez and Gil are meant to be a couple that are obviously unsuitable for each other but they have such different opinions on everything that it’s hard to believe they would have been a couple in the first place. Inez’s parents also come across as caricatures rather than real characters.
What holds this film together is Owen Wilson, he makes a likable lead that is perhaps a bit too obsessed with the past. He makes it easy for us to believe in the set-up and to enjoy the film in general. It’s a gentle and pleasing movie that isn’t too demanding on your time or your mind.
Rating 3/5 – Charming and easy watching but not necessarily essential viewing.