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In an Ivory Eiffel Tower

MOVIE REVIEW
Midnight in Paris (2011)

Midnight-in-paris-owen-wilson-carla-bruni
Roger Arpajou/Sony Pictures Classics

Critics must have desperately yearned for Woody Allen’s return to form, or else they wouldn’t have been reflexively hailing his every offering in the last decade as a return to form regardless of merit. Occasionally Mr. Allen has seemed happy to oblige, such as finally revisiting his fabled Manhattan with “Whatever Works” after a self-imposed four-year European exile. Although he has crossed the Atlantic yet again for his latest, “Midnight in Paris” deliberately channels the same deep-rooted fascination with the storied 1920s as did “Zelig,” “Bullets Over Broadway” and “Sweet and Lowdown.”

Owen Wilson plays Gil, a dissatisfied Hollywood screenwriter-turned-aspiring novelist accompanying his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and future in-laws (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy) to the City of Light. Gil has developed a distaste for the affluence that’s been a recurring Woodman milieu and longs for the boho lifestyle of a true artiste. When the clock strikes midnight, his dreams inexplicably come true as he finds himself in the roaring ’20s amid the company of the legendary F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), Salvador Dalí (Adrien Brody), Luis Buñuel (Adrien de Van), Man Ray (Tom Cordier), etc.

These larger-than-life characters must be très amusant for Mr. Allen and company to bring back to life. But Mr. Allen’s habitual romanticizing of the wealthy has grown stale and is especially problematic in this recession. His depiction of the privileged — ostentatiously devoid of other classes and races — might have been something to aspire to when “Manhattan” came out, but it’s painfully divorced from reality now when so many well-to-do people have been hit by the dot-com bubble, ponzi schemes or what have you. Although the portrait of Gil’s entitled and ignorant fiancée and in-laws isn’t exactly flattering, “Midnight in Paris” is still ultimately about such trivial and petty concerns that no one can relate to it. Darius Khondji’s lovingly composed photography at least makes the film a serviceable travelogue, although its digital crispness is no match for how Zhao Fei captured the dusty magic of the ’20s in “Sweet and Lowdown.”

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

Opens on May 20 in New York and Los Angeles.

Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Darius Khondji; edited by Alisa Lepselter; production design by Anne Seibel; costumes by Sonia Grande; produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum and Jaume Roures; released by Sony Pictures Classics. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. This film is rated PG-13.

WITH: Kathy Bates (Gert), Adrien Brody (Salvador), Carla Bruni (Museum Guide), Marion Cotillard (Adriana), Rachel McAdams (Inez), Michael Sheen (Paul), Owen Wilson (Gil), Tom Hiddleston (Mr. Fitzgerald), Alison Pill (Ms. Fitzgerald), Marcial Di Fonzo Bo (Picasso), Corey Stoll (Ernest), Kurt Fuller (John), Mimi Kennedy (Helen) and Léa Seydoux (Gabrielle).

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