I know I'm probably one of the last remaining people in the world who HASN'T seen this film, but that oversight has been corrected. This is now, officially, my favorite Woody Allen movie.
I've never been to Paris, but this movie seems almost as good as the real thing. My only quibble is Owen Wilson - an actor I'm not completely taken with. But, okay, I can tolerate him in this luscious petit-four of a movie - Woody Allen's romantic ode to one of the most gorgeous cities in the world.
Woody Allen and Owen Wilson on set
Wilson plays Gil Pender - a part, I'm thinking, Wood Allen himself would have played in the old days. He's a nebbishy kind of guy (which I must say, in reality, can get kind of annoying) who still hasn't made all his dreams come true. (Though one gets the impression that he is happy enough.)
Gil is a successful Hollywood writer currently working on a manuscript for his first novel. He is inspired by Paris in the rain. But a Paris of a different era, Paris in the 20's is what turns Gil on. Paris when artists and writers toiled by day, partied by night and got ready to leave their indelible marks on history.
Rachel McAdams plays Gil's fiancee Inez, a spoiled young woman of the sort who feels entitled to a certain way of life and who does not happily indulge her fiance's whims. She is also, between you and me, a bit of a nag.
The couple is in Paris with her parents who are traveling on business. The parents are played to absolute obnoxious perfection by Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy. It is abundantly clear from whence Inez's attitude and view of life springs. The well-to-do parents, by the way, are not thrilled with the idea of having Gil - an obvious liberal with ideas - for a son-in-law. In fact, the parents are not thrilled with much of anything, not even the romantic city of lights. They are seasoned travelers who have decided that they will no longer be 'impressed',
Okay, so here's the plot in a nutshell: One night Gil goes off walking by himself, to absorb Paris on his own terms, if possible. Ah, but Paris is having none of that, Paris must be absorbed on her terms. At midnight, in a back alley somewhere while Gil pauses to muse, a car comes out of the darkness and stops to pick him up.
Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald
Inside are the Fitzgeralds who seem pleased and not at all surprised by Gil's company.
And so the adventure begins.
Somehow, Gil is transported back in time on that same block at the stroke of midnight over the next few days. And this is where the film gets most interesting - since it has been cast superbly in these secondary parts. All are played delightfully, as if life in the twenties were all a song and dance and pithy philosophical discussion in between glasses of champagne. Well, actually, maybe it was.
A car full of 20's notables.
Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson
Gil, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein.
My favorites in the cast are Corey Stoll (with a full head of hair) as Ernest Hemingway. He is perfection as an introspective man given to spouting philosophical platitudes apparently quoted from his books.
As Hemingway he exudes manly physical strength and sex appeal, while speaking mostly in gibberish. He is wonderful.
I also love Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, but then, it's always hard not to like Kathy Bates in anything she does. She is a treasure who, if not for her weight, would probably work lots more. It's a shame that Hollywood can't figure out that Bates is a beautiful talented woman who just happens not to wear a size 2 but so what.
Salvadore Dali charming anyone and everyone who drops by.
Adrien Brody as a young Salvadore Dali almost steals the picture. He is on screen for only a few scenes, but he is memorable and the camera loves him.
Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald too, are played to perfection by Alison Pill and Tim Hiddleston.
I also love the guy who plays Cole Porter (Yves Heck) though he doesn't have much to do but sing one of his songs at the piano
Okay, so who does Gil meet in these nightly spins into the past?
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Alice B. Toklas
...and others of that era who appear to be having a grand old time.
Speaking of which, time as we know, has an odd sense of humor and Woody Allen hasn't forgotten that. Near the end we get a couple of surprises which almost don't register until after the movie is over and you have the time to think about them.
For the few of you haven't seen this lovely and oh-so-lyrical film, I say: drop everything and get your hands on the DVD. I believe this will be the first and only Woody Allen film I will actually buy and add to my personal library.
To view the trailer, please use this link.
(All the photos I've used in this post have been culled from various film sites online. I intend no copyright infringement and will remove any photo if the owner requests it. This post is purely for entertainment purposes.)
This poster that I found online has a bit of the wistful flavor of the film and Owen Wilson's part in it.