Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Midnight in Paris

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

I'm not a guy who goes in for movies that are love letters to "insert city her," so I needed more from this one than pretty shots of Paris filling montages that go on a bit too long for my liking. I do like the particularity of Woody Allen's experienced-shooting style (which is still especially unique to me as I've only seen one other of his films), but again, not enough. The premise of a modern day romantic making his way back to 1920's Paris is a neat one, and novel because it brings about some excellent supporting performances in actors portraying real historical figures. Corey Stoll captures the screen with his intense Ernest Hemingway, Kathy Bates strikes a nice run-on sentence of a performance of Gertrude Stein, Adrien Brody has a fun cameo as Salvador Dali and I wanted to see more of Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill's charming Fitzgeralds. The overall commentary Allen is making about everybody's romanticized past golden age being somebody else's dull present is one with mileage. Unfortunately all this stumbles for me with Owen Wilson's leading man performance, which starts awkward and only gets worse. I don't fault Wilson for playing out of his depth given that he's a man from the 21st century hobnobbing with his idols a century prior, but he goes too far with it and wrecks the flow of the piece for me. He has nice comedic bursts, his obvious strength, but a more meaningful dramatic performance is sacrificed and lacking. The most disappointing thing for me is how Wilson's googly-eyed rambling cuts so much of the cast's potential off because it kills the give and take. Rachel McAdams and Mimi Kennedy are brilliantly bitchy as the shallow fiancee and her loathsome mother, but Wilson fails to give his character, Gil, enough likability for me to really root against them. On the other side of the coin, Marion Cotillard is beguiling as the object of Gil's affection in the past, but the fact that she prefers this bumbler to the charismatic Hemingway when he displays no real affable qualities takes away from her credibility. It's rare that I like so much about a movie from its writing to its technical aspects to the general high quality of the performances and yet one actor can really spoil it for me, but Midnight in Paris is that unique exception.