I've been remiss in posting on movies the missus and I have seen this holiday season, so this will be the first of a cinematic hat trick.
We've both liked Woody Allen movies for years, although it seems at times he's left his movie mojo in the garage. Still, we figured, there'd be moments in Midnight in Paris that would make the price of admission worthwhile.
We were right. This one is vintage Woody, although now he's letting a surrogate play his part – in this case Owen Wilson. The premise is partly Woody-as-he's-always-been and part Woody-as-senior-citizen. Meaning: Were the "good old days" really that good? To examine this idea, he allows his alter ego, Wilson as a screenwriter named Gil, who wants to be a novelist, to travel at various midnights back in time to see if things were really as romantic in the 1920s (and farther back) as those times seem now.
Gil meets, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Stein, Toklas, and others and is appropriately in awe of them. There is romance – in the here-and-now as well as then – and both, like Gil's romantic superimposition over that romantic age, erode under ever-closer examination.
What lies beneath Woody's whimsy is a question: With the romance of the eras through which Gil travels suffering from loss of their rosy glow, does it mean the work these artists and writers spent their lives expressing will lose its artistic relevance?
We won't know – perhaps our children's children will – but with a sly wink, Woody seems to be asking the same of his age, his own work. As always, he gives us amusement, relevance, and something to take home and think about. The casting is topnotch, characters from Toulouse Lautrec to Hemingway look the part, and almost all play their parts well. Perhaps Kathy Bates is the weakest casting – for Gertrude Stein – but you can't help liking her anyway.
My rating: 17 of 20 stars