Midnight in Paris 2011 ★★★½

If you’ve been following the critical responses to Woody Allen’s films over the last ten years you will have noticed the ever present phrase, ’a return to form’. Every one of his films of the past decade, at some point, has been proclaimed as the director’s return to form yet this phrase is really a euphemism for, ‘well it’s not as bad as The Curse of the Jade Scorpion’. Because nothing Allen has created in the past ten years could ever, really, be classed as a return to form when his output in the ‘70s and ‘80s was full of genuine masterpieces. Which brings us to Midnight in Paris, his latest so called return to form.

Owen Wilson is a surprisingly great Allen replacement, something his recent films have sorely lacked. He manages to capture the neurosis, charm and intelligence of the writer-director without coming across as a mere poor imitation. Whilst the plot may resemble an intellectual version of Nicholas Lyndhurst’s Goodnight Sweetheart the magical realism and Parisian setting also recalls Jacques Rivette (particularly Celine and Julie Go Boating). Although philosophical and dealing in potentially weighty themes there is a lightness of touch and a sense that Allen is having genuine fun with the story (something often absent in his latest work).

But I must come back to the phrase, ‘a return to form’, because for all its many charms (from the romantic depiction of Paris, the universally strong performances and endearing conceit) does it really compare with Annie Hall or any of his other many earlier classics? Sadly, for me, the answer is no. It’s undoubtedly charming, amusing, nostalgic yet modern but in twenty years time it is hard to see people talking about the film in the same breath as Manhattan et al. Of course that doesn’t mean the film shouldn’t be appreciated for what it is, which is a very well made enchanting slice of magical realism.

19 Comments

  • I enjoyed it and thought that it reminded me of The Purple Rose of Cario. I have liked some that he has done in the last ten years like Vicky Cristina Bareclona and Match Point and the rest are either redundant, okay or really bad. I have high hopes for To Rome With Love

  • I disliked both Match Point and VCB, despite their positive critical receptions, so I really wasn't expecting to like Midnight in Paris as much as I did.

  • I loved it.

  • So many below-par movies turned me away from Woody, but I was enticed back by the glowing reviews (okay, and the cast) for Vicky Christina Barcelona... And I didn't like that either! So I've steered clear of this. Maybe I'll give it a shot. One last time...

  • You sound just like me. I really didn't believe the positive reviews or word of mouth for Midnight in Paris (too many times I'd been conned by such claims) but it is a very charming film.

  • I think it deserves more credit than you give it. To start, it's funny, maybe as funny as any of Allen's movies. Second, while it might not have the emotion of his classics, that's by design, and I don't think it makes Midnight that far inferior to Manhattan/Annie Hall. Those are darker movies about relationships, and Midnight is a lighter and happier movie, though equally deep or maybe deeper, about life, and of course a bit about relationships as well.

    I think it will hold up well, definitely above all his other recent work. Surely worth more than 3.5 stars imo

  • Well it is purely subjective. It's not the light tone that is stopping it being compared to his earlier classics more that I don't think the overall quality is as good. By my ratings 3.5 still means very good so I am in no way rubbishing the film, and compared to all his other films of the last decade it is a revelation, I just don't think it is quite as sharp, clever or as memorable as his best.

    Maybe in ten years time, and after several more viewings, I'll have changed my mind and I'll be happy to admit I was wrong.

  • Is there anything you felt it was missing, or what wasn't up to par compared his best? It is a different type of movie, and I'm not saying it's as good as his others, but I don't think it's that far off in terms of quality

  • There is nothing specific that is missing but as I said above I just didn't find it quite as sharp or memorable as his best films. I don't want to seem too down on the film, I enjoyed it a lot when I was expecting to be disappointed once again, but it didn't quite have that unquantifiable magic that much of his earlier films do have.

  • One of the biggest thing MiP had going for it was the surprise factor. The trailer for the film says NOTHING about what the movie is actually about. So I kind of went in to the movie not expecting much. When the "stuff" happens I was completely surprised and enchanted immediately.

    People going in already knowing what to expect will lose a little bit of that magic I think. Maybe not, but I definitely know it would not have worked quite as well as it did.

  • I'm not at all a Woody Allen fan but I LOVED this film and its my top 4 fav. film now. I cant think of anything bad about it..I mean, there are a few plot holes and questions that I'm left with but those are small.

    I kind of have high hopes for To Rome With Love as well but I also know that it wont be as good as MiP nor will it be the same thing or even close to it. Its just another Woody film that is a love letter to a city.

  • It's interesting to see how this film has brought about a new renaissance of Woody Allen fans. I started a teaching assistant job at my university this semester for French, and I can't count how many girls there are who have asking me for suggestions on more Woody Allen films to see after Midnight in Paris being their first.

  • Well I hope you recommended his earlier films.

  • While I disagree with you on the rating Adam, I actually can't disagree with any of the review. Your point of comparing it's potential legacy with Annie Hall is spot on. Anyone I introduce Allen too, I always recommend or show them Annie Hall ahead of this. I reckon after a re-watch I'll lower my rating a tad, I'm guilty of not being particularly consistent with my scoring.

  • Regarding the rating: In the last ten years I haven't rated an Allen film higher than two stars so the rating here is very complimentary.

  • Regardless of his past, as an individual cinema experience this film is worthy of acclaim. It's among his best work in my opinion. I haven't seen many of Allen's over the past decade though; I enjoyed Whatever Works, but hated You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Vicky Cristina Barcelona was the first Allen film I ever attempted to watch, I was about 15 and just didn't get it.

  • Of course I did! Even Manhattan which I seem to be the only person in the world that likes Allen and dislikes Manhattan.

  • Love the reference to Goodnight Sweetheart. Had wanted to use it myself but you got there months ago!

  • Well I doubt I was the first to make the comparison so I'm sure you're allowed to use it too.

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