Establishing shots at the beginning of the film are divine, and if I wasn’t in Paris already, I’d be booking my flight! Funny how the toast of Manhattan, consummate New Yorker Woody Allen, now seems to be smitten with Paris. Is the City of Light his new inspiration?
Owen Wilson is quite taken with Paris in the 1920s. He’s a writer who’s spent years grinding out scripts in Hollywood (successfully, it seems) but wishes he’d had the guts to write novels in Paris instead. He’s visiting the city with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams), who’s had enough (“If I never see another charming boulevard or bistro -) but he’s still bubbling with anecdotes of Monet and Hemingway and their fruitful time lost in their art. While he’s out chasing the ghost of Joyce down cobbled streets, the clock strikes midnight and an old Peugeot drives up, full of merry-makers. Turns out – spoiler alert – that it’s Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
We never know whether this is magic or mental health, but he now possesses the ability to slip back to his favourite time period, 20s era Paris, and he gets invited into Gertrude Stein’s (Kathy Bates) famous salon. Bates is lovely but I have to say, Wilson’s earnestness is what really sells this piece. He’s wide-eyed and worshipful of his heroes. It’s major wish-fulfillment and it’s fun to see all these giants come to life.
Rachel McAdams starts to get annoyed that he disappears every night, but how can he resist? Hemingway himself has offered to edit his work! Woody Allen’s script sings with treasures for book-lovers, and in this film, I can combine with my love of literature AND film (AND Paris, incidentally). Owen Wilson is just as bowled over – particularly when he comes across a beautiful muse (and mistress) to many famous artists (Marion Cotillard), but what a conflict between his actual fiancée in the present tense, and the people who get him but may just be figments of his fertile imagination.
This movie is not for everyone and that’s okay. And it’s not just about being well-read. You just either feel the charm or you don’t. Allen sprinkles the scrip liberally with treats that add up to a veritable feast (a moveable feast?) – you get the sense that he must have had fun writing this, which is perhaps why he won the Oscar for Best Orignal Screenplay (though he never attends to pick up his statuettes). If any of the above has sounded interesting, or if you just need another excuse to fall in love with the City of Possibility, then put this on your list.