Woody Allen's latest, Midnight in Paris, is in the vein of nostalgia we have had from him since Manhattan, combined with his framing of a picturesque city:there it was rhapsodic,here it is small-scale.Owen Wilson plays Gil,an unemployed Hollywood screenwriter working on his first novel,holidaying with his fiancée Inez(McAdams)prior to their wedding.Allen's Paris is seductively lit,but doesn't feel modern or real and largely unpeopled. Allen uses his old trick of wit and whimsy(a la Purple Rose) to effect time travel by midnight Peugot cab to Paris in the 20s to meet Hemingway,the Fitzgeralds,Cole Porter,Dali,Picasso,Bunuel,Stein, the Lost Generation. He is bored with his fiancée who belittles him in front of a male friend Paul(Sheen),who he lets go out with while Gil wanders the streets,jumping time,getting a review of his latest novel from Stein and Hemingway, while falling in love with Adriana(Cotillard),Picasso's mistress.The here and now is just another fantasy so there is no farewell to nostalgia.The Belle Epoque they also visit,meeting Degas and Lautec, are surprised they think it so great.Contentment is always backward-looking,Gil must set aside fantasy and make do with the here and now.
Inez's mother and father,Tea Party types,have their doubts about Gil,and have him followed by a private detective,who ends up as the object of the best joke in the film.Owen Wilson is charming and carries off the name-dropping Allen lines with comic verve,Hemingway(Stoll) is superbly gruff,Dali(Brody)a wizard of crazy wit. There are beautiful cameos from Cotillard and Lea Sedoux.There are some good one-liners as Gil negotiates seamlessly between the past and the present and the music,Bechet,Porter,gives the uncanny power of nostalgia a boost.While being without the energy of Vicky Christina Barcelona,it's a dreamy and jazzy bauble of vintage Allen and better.I think Allen has become a byword for rosy nostalgia and present fantasy.