Saturday, June 18, 2011
Woody Allen is back, guys. In a big way. This is the days of yore Allen, winking and magical. The instant his familiar opening credits rolled, jazz playing, white lettering on a black screen, I was smiling and settling into my seat. I was ready for Paris from the man who shows that cities can be just as gorgeous as the leading lady, if not more. The last time I recall Allen putting Paris in his movies was with Everyone Says I Love You, his whimsical musical from 1996, almost a generation ago. It was a beautiful setting then, but here it becomes a character in its own right. The whole opening sequence is lingering shots of Paris, in sunlight, in rain, at night, and you (I, at least) cannot help but be seized by the desire to jump into the screen and eat baguettes alongside beautiful people.
The story here is of an American screenwriter/hopeful novelist, Gil, played brilliantly by Owen Wilson. I know, not exactly the actor that springs to mind when looking for a Woody Allen-esque character. But he dives in headfirst, and is all nerves and excitement, awkward and charming. Gil is engaged to Inez, played by the lovely Rachel McAdams (Rachel McHottie, if you will), whose father has business in Paris, which is why everyone’s there. Inez, though very pretty, is essentially an irritating shrew, and it is unclear why Gil is with her at all. But that is easily glossed over, as this is not her movie.
Gil finds that rather than spending any amount of time with Inez and her toxic friend Paul (Michael Sheen, gloriously pompous, arguing with Carla Bruni playing a museum guide), he’d like to walk around the city and learn it for himself.
Here’s where the magic comes in. When the clock strikes midnight, a car pulls up, picks up Gil, and takes him to a party. At this party, he is accosted by Zelda Fitzgerald (Alison Pill), who introduces him to her husband, Scott. Gil is, understandably, gobsmacked, and no less so when he recognizes the man at the piano as Cole Porter. But he goes along with it, as any self-respecting artist would. Best of all, he meets his idol, a Mr. Ernest Hemingway, played perfectly and at full speed by Corey Stoll of the dreadful Law and Order LA.
So it goes that every night in Paris, Gil is transported to Paris in the 1920’s, which to him has always seemed a magical time. There is, naturally, a love interest who is not his overbearing fiancée. Happily, the woman in question is played by Marion Cotillard, outrageously beautiful and sweet. When we first meet her, she is Picasso’s mistress, and Gil has his first meeting with her after agreeing to bring his novel to Gertrude Stein for her to look over. Insanity! What better, more hilarious casting could there be than Kathy Bates as Gertude Stein???? I challenge you, Dear Reader, to beat that. Well, maybe Adrien Brody as Dali. YES.
Thankfully, we are allowed to simply bask in the beauty of the movie, as the “how” of the time-travel is never explained. Why should it be? Inez remains a mystery to me, though I suppose it is funny enough to have her wonder why her fiancé is applying cologne, if all he is planning to do is walk around and write. Never mind, though. Just see the film.