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Midnight in Paris

Year: 2011
Production Co: Gravier Productions
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Cast: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cottilard, Michael Sheen, Carla Bruni, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody

There hasn't been a film career that's careened so wildly in tone despite such a similar approach as Woody Allen's. He spent most of the 90s and beginning of the 2000s in the critical netherworld, clawing his way back to respectability thanks to his European phase and his new use in Scarlett Johansson.

I don't agree with many of the opinions about which films of his are terrible and have watched most of them with great pleasure, but with the biggest box office take he's ever had, Allen seems to be back in the game. And if he was ever truly off his form, he's back on with Midnight in Paris.

It's a rumination on the romance of nostalgia. Owen Wilson is the Allen proxy this time (though how you can make a blonde, laid-back California surfer dude anything like the neurotic, Jewish New Yorker is an accomplishment to begin with). He's a hack screenwriter who harkens after a more serious career in literature, though his snobbish blueblood fiancé (McAdams) hardly listens to a word he says. She seems more interested in the stuck up acquaintance (Sheen) they keep coming across during their holiday.

While he tries to extricate himself from the problems and demands of his impending nuptials – not to mention a lifetime of not being taken seriously, Gil (Wilson) wanders the streets dreaming about Paris of the 20s. No sooner does he sit at a nondescript street corner at midnight when it comes to him, a vintage car whisking him off to bars and parties populated with the likes of F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Salvador Dali (Brody in a classic single-scene role).

He also starts falling for Adriana (Cottilard) – the 20s equivalent of an artist's groupie, but Allen saves his thesis for the final scenes when she and Gil travel back in time even further to the period she dreams about, the Bell Epoque and the heyday of the cabaret houses and older artists like Toulouse Lautrec and Henri Matisse.

No matter where in time you live, Allen's saying, the past always seems better than the present, and none of us are ever satisfied with the world we live in. It's almost as if he's telling himself after all these years to grow up and accept the world of iPads and terrorism instead of framing New York as some Henry Mancini-themed wonderland of romance and playing clarinet at a jazz club whenever the Oscars are on.

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