There’s no fair-minded way to put down Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris, which I’m calling a relatively minor piece that works very well by way of charm and humor. The key phrase, of course, is “works very well.” When a film does this then words like “minor” or “trifle” go out the window because a film that knows what it’s doing is by definition substantial and not minor. It may not be the startling world-class masterpiece you’re looking to see, okay, but a success is a success.
You can complain like Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn, but you’ll sound like a guy who doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone. He remarked that while Allen’s film is “generally satisfying” and “casually likable,” it delivers “a slight entertaining touch,” using a “magical hook” — i.e., time travel — in “mostly a conventional way” that is “flimsily conceived” with the back-to-the-20s gimmick gradually “growing tiresome.”
And yet Midnight in Paris “does justice to the universe without taking it in any new directions,” he says, and that’s as good as you’re going to get these days from the 75 year-old Allen.
All you can hope for from a filmmaker who’s been around as long as Allen and has made as many films as he has is agreeable reinvention and refinement. All auteurs make the same film over and over again. Whatever idea Allen comes up with at this stage of the game is probably one he first devised 20 or 30 or 40 years ago. It’s very rare for an artist to capture anything that feels like fresh lightning in a bottle. And any film that delivers a basic truism that everyone can agree with — i.e., nostalgia is a trap, a form of denial — is one that can’t help but resonate. And that’s what you have here.
Here’s a nicely written interview-review by Scott Foundas in the L.A. Weekly.