Woody Allen’s ode to Paris benefits from inspired casting

Owen Wilson stars as Gil, a “Hollywood hack” turned aspiring writer, with Rachel McAdams as Inez, Gil’s fiancée. Photo by Roger Arpajou. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

If airfares to Paris are too high for you this summer the next best thing just might be “Midnight in Paris,” writer-director Woody Allen’s romantic fable that’s as sweet and as bubbly as Champagne. As demonstrated before in films such as “Manhattan,” when Allen falls in love with a city he falls hard, and the captivating Paris on display here is no exception. Be it bathed in sunshine or drenched in rain, the City of Light shimmers as the characters Allen brings to life sparkle.

Owen Wilson stars as Gil, a successful but unfulfilled “Hollywood hack” who aspires to write a great first novel and live in Paris, where he’s on holiday with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her fat-cat, politically conservative parents (Mimi Kennedy and Kurt Fuller). Paris is fine for sightseeing and shopping, the prickly Inez tells Gil, but she has no intention of ever living abroad, nor does she understand why he is so enamored with the city.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

But to Gil, a dreamer and nostalgia buff, strolling through Paris after dark and imagining life there in the 1920s, is magic.

On a late-night walk in a quiet part of the city, Gil is beckoned by passengers in a vintage car, which transports him to the Paris of his dreams. Although he’s perplexed at how this happens -and keeps happening night after night – he revels in hobnobbing with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali, T.S. Elliot and other literary and artistic Golden Age giants.

Allen takes no time to explain the time-travel conceit because it really doesn’t matter. What’s far more entertaining is Gil drinking with Hemingway, consulting Gertrude Stein about his novel, giving relationship advice to F. Scott and falling for Picasso’s muse Adriana, played with great panache by the radiant Marion Cotillard.

The action moves, jokes fly and the casting is inspired, with Corey Stoll hilarious as a macho Hemingway speaking in halting sentences, Alison Pill pitch-perfect as the loopy Zelda and Kathy Bates, a no-nonsense Gertrude Stein, who presides over her cadre of writers like an adored den mother.

Allen found the perfect avatar in Wilson. Though he looks more surfer than scholar, his shaggy Gil, all befuddled and muttering, projects an easy likability. You just can’t help but root for him as he comes to find that nostalgia lies in its effect on one’s state of mind more than remembrance of things passed.

‘Midnight in Paris’



OPENS: Friday at Plaza Frontenac