The latest Woody Allen effort Midnight in Paris is in his favorite romantic comedy vein and not for the first time it is combined with elements of fantasy. Allen is a fairly productive writer / director and his movies are not drastically different from each other so if you don't expect something innovative from him, you won't be surprised for good or for bad. What makes this film easily recommendable for viewing is its beauty.
After a series of lovely Paris shots, Midnight in Paris continues with a pretty much standard Woody Allen's setting. An engaged couple is on a visit in Paris together with the girl's parents. Gil (Owen Wilson) is the future bridegroom who is in love with the city and its beauty as well as with Paris' endless inspirational potential. As a real romantic he wants to drop his successful writing job in Hollywood in order to become a novel writer. His partner Inez (Rachel McAdams) is far more practical. She doesn't approve Gil's book-writing ambitions, neither his romantic fall for Paris. Her parents are not exactly charmed by Gil either. As a result, Inez finds a distraction in her former classmate Paul (Michael Sheen) while Gil discovers a way to visit his fantasies.
Midnight in Paris sports an interesting cast. Owen Wilson is intended to replace the usual Woody Allen character and he suits well for the purpose. Wilson is not exactly Allen but nevertheless he displays many of Allen's characters features in his own way. Rachel McAdams is not very likeable (both physically and mentally) as Inez, completely in accordance with Allen's intention, I suppose. Michael Sheen is really annoying in his performance and is another good choice in the movie. There are a few short appearances of Carla Bruni as a museum guide, maybe as an actual reference to Paris in her current real life role of France's first lady. There are also notable performances of Kathy Bates and Marion Cotillard, both of which are doing a great job, but I won't discuss their parts in order to avoid spoilers.
To touch upon eventual weaknesses of the film, I have to mention again the certain degree of repetitiveness in Woody Allen's movies although having Owen Wilson instead of Allen himself gives the film a bit of different flavor. Another possible weak spot could be the predictability of Midnight in Paris in terms that you'll be hardly surprised by the ending. Finally, the naivety of Gil with regard to Inez is annoying and not very believable.
The strength of Midnight in Paris except for the heap of magnificent and captivating shots of day and night Paris lies in its fantasy parts. They are imaginative and rich in famous characters. There are many references to particular artists' lives and works. A reference that immediately distinguishes itself is to Luis Buñuel's film El ángel exterminador (The Exterminating Angel) and it will most probably make you smile even if you are not familiar with Luis Bunuel's work.
Midnight in Paris is certainly not the best of Woody Allen's movies but it's among his better efforts of the last couple of decades: it offers a spectacular view on Paris and an exciting adventure for (nostalgic) romantics.