Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen's love letter to Paris is a charming romantic comedy about a successful Hollywood screenwriter (Owen Wilson), insecure about his first novel, who is vacationing in the City of Light with his materialistic fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. Strolling alone through the streets at midnight, he is hailed by an old-fashioned automobile and promptly whisked off to the Paris of the 1920s, a period which he has completely romanticized. Back in time, he carouses with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and a host of other great artists and writers from the era.

In many ways this is "classic" Woody Allen, combining the wistful fantasy of The Purple Rose of Cairo with the insightfulness of his best films and even a little of the slapstick of his earliest work.

Wilson, with his gentle Texas drawl, is one of the few Woody Allen stand-ins who doesn't sound like he's trying to do a Woody Allen impression, which is very welcome. The casting in general is outstanding: Allen and his casting directors have done a fantastic job at finding just the right actors – some famous, some not – to portray the legendary figures that populate the Paris of the past. And Marion Cotillard, as the Jazz Age Parisienne who catches Wilson's eye, has fine chemistry with her leading man, a testament both to her skill and to Wilson's likability. The only sour note – a deliberate one – is McAdams' almost impossibly mean fiancée. I can see that, structurally speaking, Allen must have felt that she had to be thoroughly horrid in order for Wilson to prefer the company of figures of the distant past, but she's a cruel hyperbole of the typical "unsupportive girlfriend" character.

All that aside, Midnight in Paris is an excellent film. Darius Khondji's cinematography and Anne Seibel's production design are extraordinarily evocative, and Allen has written his loveliest dialogue in years. Little wonder that it's the most financially successful picture of his five-decade career: the 75-year-old filmmaker is firing on all cylinders.