"Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present." Woody Allen's fixation with the past is explored in this magical-realist fantasy, his loveliest film for quite some time.
This is mainly due to his lead actor, Owen Wilson, who, rather than doing a Woody Allen impression, plays it the way he usually does: inquisitive, affable and slightly baffled. Wilson, who has an excellent ear for Allen's dialogue, plays Gil, an unsatisfied screenwriter who travels to Paris to complete his novel. He is accompanied by his spoilt, spiteful fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her Tea Party-sympathising parents. Why on earth would romantic, liberal Gil be involved with this bunch? It's the only thing that doesn't quite work. One night, Gil, desperate to get away from Inez's pompous academic pal (Michael Sheen, convincing), goes for a wander around Paris and discovers a hole in the fabric of time that transports him back to the 1920s. Wide-eyed Gil is intoxicated in the company of Ernest Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, a rhino-obsessed Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody, very amusing) and, in particular, Picasso's lover, Marion Cotillard's Adriana. He returns to this intellectual idyll every night at midnight. Allen has always been adept at the fantastical – also see Zelig and The Purple Rose of Cairo – and he's always at his best when he applies a streak of melancholy. Midnight in Paris has both and a good script, too. Welcome back, Woody.