The year is 2010, and successful Hollywood screenwriter of popcorn flicks Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is unhappy with his lot in life, but now he is holidaying in Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents he is beginning to feel more at home, oddly enough. It has been his dream to write a great piece of literature, and here he thinks would be the ideal place to settle down to do so; he has a draft of that novel with him, but could see himself soaking up the Parisien atmosphere and it feeding into his work. Inez is a lot less impressed, mainly here for the tourist sights, leaving him more ill at ease...
So what if there were someone Gil could really talk to about his aspirations, someone artistic who could get on his wavelength? The central conceit of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris posited just that, you would always find someone to bring out the best in you, even if it meant you had to go as far as the previous century. Everyone except Gil could do so by immersing themselves in the writings, sounds and images of the past, feeling a connection between then and now, but for our affable hero he is plunged into one of Allen's fantasy premises where he simply has to take a vintage taxi cab at midnight and what do you know?
That's right, it's a magic cab, never wholly explained thanks to it being utterly a contrivance of plot for which the mechanics are not important, and soon Gil finds himself in what he sees as a Golden Age of creativity, Paris in the 1920s where he can meet all those who he holds up as the paragons of their art. All those fascinating souls who previously he could only access through their work are now here in front of him, and he can chat with them and even make moves to falling in love with one of their hangers-on, model and budding fashion designer Adriana (Marion Cotillard) - this is the kind of culture Gil came to the French capital for, and he's loving every minute of it - up to a point.
That point is, of course, at the end of the evening he's back in the early twenty-first century stuck with the woman we rightly suspect is not really for him, one of Allen's more obvious ploys to flatter the audience into thinking they know better than the more narrow minded denizens of not only the movie, but the world in general as well. That Inez's parents are dyed in the wool Tea Party Republicans is an even more heavy-handed device, and apparently created to offer the director the chance to fire off a few barbs at those on the opposing political divide to him; it wasn't with only this which Allen appealed to his target audience's sensibilities, as you were expected to recognise the references to whoever was impersonated on the screen into the bargain.
However, it wasn't essential, and you'd be forgiven for allowing the more obscure figures to pass you by, as what made Midnight in Paris as charming as it was turned out to be a gentle nudge to the nostalgists of whatever stripe to have them understand that every era, no matter what its attraction to you, had its good and bad points, so it's best not to wallow in what came before when you should be living your life in the present, as imperfect as that may be. Therefore actually what could have been a smug parade of impressions and in-jokes turned out to have a wider draw, and may even - as seemed to be the case - provide the impetus for the audience to seek out the work alluded to and see if they enjoyed it. This was Allen, in spite of the expected curmudgeonly mood to certain scenes, at his warmest, allowing Gil (Wilson doing well in the now-traditional Allen surrogate role) to keep his enthusiasms intact while still teaching him to make the best of what he had. Maybe it was all fantasy, but it was one which had its allure. Music by Stephane Wrembel.
American writer/director/actor and one of the most distinctive talents in American film-making over the last three decades. Allen's successful early career as a stand-up comedian led him to start his directing life with a series of madcap, scattershot comedies that included Bananas, Sleeper and Love and Death. 1975's Oscar-winning Annie Hall was his first attempt to weave drama and comedy together, while 1979's Manhattan is considered by many critics to be Allen's masterpiece.
The 90s saw Allen keep up his one-film-a-year work-rate, the most notable being the fraught Husbands and Wives, gangster period piece Bullets Over Broadway, the savagely funny Deconstructing Harry and the under-rated Sweet and Lowdown. After a run of slight, average comedies, Allen returned to more ambitious territory with the split-story Melinda and Melinda, the dark London-set drama Match Point, romantic drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona, one of many of his films which won acting Oscars, and the unexpected late-on hits Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine. In any case, he remains an intelligent, always entertaining film-maker with an amazing back catalogue.