Believe It or Not, Everyone Loves Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’

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It’s no secret that we haven’t exactly been holding our breath for Woody Allen’s new movie, Midnight in Paris. We thought the trailer verged on self parody, and we didn’t even include it on our list of Cannes films we can’t wait to see. But, lo and behold, we may have judged Midnight in Paris too soon. Allen’s festival-opening love letter to the City of Light, which makes its theatrical debut this weekend, is getting almost universally excellent reviews. We round up the raves after the jump. Let us know in the comments whether you’re planning to give latter-day Woody a shot.

A.O. Scott at The New York Times doesn’t mind that the film isn’t especially innovative, explaining that its nuanced and enjoyable take on cultural nostalgia is the real draw:

“Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen’s charming new film, imagines what would happen if that wish came true. It is marvelously romantic, even though — or precisely because — it acknowledges the disappointment that shadows every genuine expression of romanticism. The film has the inspired silliness of some of Mr. Allen’s classic comic sketches (most obviously, “A Twenties Memory,” in which the narrator’s nose is repeatedly broken by Ernest Hemingway), spiked with the rueful fatalism that has characterized so much of his later work.

At Movieline, Stephanie Zacharek also points out Midnight in Paris‘s emphasis on “the limits of nostalgia,” but goes on to clarify that it is “funnier and less ponderous than I’ve just made it sound.” She picks out a particularly rich moment:

Midnight in Paris really blossoms when Gil, wandering around the city one night after downing one glass of red wine too many, is beckoned into a vintage Peugot by a crew of noisy revelers in evening dress, holding champagne glasses aloft. He’s whisked off to a party, where he recognizes the gent at the piano: He’s seen his picture on the front of an old piece of sheet music. A tootsie in bobbed hair and a shimmery flapper dress (Alison Pill) snaps him up and tells him her name is Zelda; she introduces him to her husband, an sensitive-looking well-groomed fellow named Francis (Tom Hiddleston, recently seen in Thor). A macho blowhard at a nearby table goes by the name of Ernest (he’s played, with the right amount of tongue-in-cheek bluster, by Corey Stoll). Wilson can hardly believe what he’s seeing, and who he’s meeting. If you’re looking for the actor to do the perfect “You’re pulling my leg” double-take, Wilson is your man.

New York magazine’s David Edelstein joins several other critics in naming Midnight in Paris Allen’s best film in recent memory and isolates what distinguishes it:

This supernatural comedy isn’t just Allen’s best film in more than a decade; it’s the only one that manages to rise above its tidy parable structure and be easy, graceful, and glancingly funny, as if buoyed by its befuddled hero’s enchantment.

Andrew O’Hehir at Salon isn’t quite so effusive, finding a few faults but praising performances by Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, and Adrien Brody and ultimately judging Midnight in Paris to be a delightful confection:

I get it: If you want a movie about Algerian rappers in the banlieues you’ll have to go elsewhere. Allen has baked us a sweet, airy Parisian pastry with just a hint of wistful substance in the finish, and gotten this year’s Cannes festivities off to a winning start.

And finally, at the Village Voice , Karina Longworth likes the film — but hey, she also appreciated many of those other recent Allen movies we couldn’t stomach:

But ephemerality proves to be a curse in every epoch. Allen—whose contemporary output is often unfairly dismissed as trifling, even though his films of the ’00s have been shot through with an intense, cumulative despair as often as they’ve been shot thanks to the miracles of foreign financing and tax credits—gives the episodic ebb and flow of satisfaction an unexpectedly upbeat spin.