There’s a case to be made that Woody Allen’s career has been grievously underrated in its autumnal stage, especially some of the films made in Europe such as Matchpoint and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, both reviewed somewhat grudgingly.
In future years Midnight in Paris will bolster a more upbeat view of his later films. The story is certainly familiar Allen fare, its fantasy scenario in the spirit of The Purple Rose of Cairo. An artistically frustrated contemporary Hollywood screenwriter (Owen Wilson) is repeatedly spirited into the artistic bohemia of 1930s Paris during a visit to the city with his materialistic fiancee (Rachel McAdams). Offered lifts in a vintage limousine during his solo night walks, he hobnobs at elegant soirees with the likes of Cocteau, Picasso, Hemingway, Dali and Stein, and falls for a beautiful artist’s muse (Marion Cotillard).
Even by Allen’s standards, the dialogue is consistently witty, the supporting performances full of delight – Adrien Brody’s Dali and Kathy Bates’s Stein are two of many. And adding depth to the comedy is a smart thematic idea: that golden ages are never golden to those living through them, who merely hanker to escape their own period too.