Midnight in Woodyland

If you thought Woody Allen waxed poetic about New York City on film, wait until you settle into your seat to see Midnight in Paris.

Allen’s latest effort, hastily dubbed a return to form by his gooey admirers, is a love letter to the City of Light. It also sees fit to mock Republicans, tea partiers, and anyone who thinks having a mistress might be unethical.

Watching a new Allen movie is akin to seeing the artist’s psyche laid bare. We know too much about the off-screen Allen, from his morally repugnant romance with then-girlfriend Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter to his support for admitted child rapist Roman Polanski.

It puts his movies in a less flattering light. And, frankly, Allen’s current projects can’t measure up to his older, better films.

In Midnight in Paris, Owen Wilson plays a flustered screenwriter named Gil visiting Paris with his fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams).

Gil is entranced by everything Paris has to offer, but he really longs to be in the Paris of the 1920s, a time when some of the greatest writers in history roamed the streets.

“I’m a Hollywood hack who never gave literature a real shot until now,” he wails.

One drunken night, a vintage car drives up to Gil and its passengers insist he hop in. A few minutes later Gil is hobnobbing with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and swapping stories with Ernest Hemingway.

Gil’s initial shock of being next to his literary idols quickly turns to merriment. Why question the time space continuum when you can pester Hemingway for writing tips?

The next day Gil finds himself back in modern day Paris along with his unpleasant fiancée, but every night he makes an excuse to revisit the city block where that magical car escorted him back in time. And, sure enough, the car keeps reappearing right on schedule.

But can Paris’ romanticized past deliver a meaningful future for Gil? And will he find true love with Picasso’s current squeeze (Marion Cotillard, who delivers the most enchanting performance in the movie)?