By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
REVIEW (GRADE: B)
Witty, whimsical, and charming, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is a good film but lacks the substance and artistry necessary to qualify as one of the year's best films, as it has often been labeled. A full-hearted homage to the City of Love and its rich history of philosophy, culture, and art, this is a light and breezy fantasy that finds a modern writer (Owen Wilson) somehow accessing 1920's Paris during late night walks away from his overbearing fiance and her parents, leading him to question what he really wants out of life. Writer/director Allen paints the city in a warm and romantic light, and Owen Wilson is at his most likable here, sharing a gentle chemistry with Marion Cotillard (Inception, Big Fish) as a French woman who captures his attention. The characterizations of historic figures such as Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway are greatly amusing, as is a supporting turn by Kathy Bates.
Unfortunately, Allen misses an opportunity for genuine internal conflict for his protagonist by portraying the fiance (a misused Rachel McAdams) and her family as selfish, one-dimensional caricatures of conservative Americans. I struggle, as an audience member, with characters whose sole purpose is to be unlikable, with no real shades of humanity to clarify their motivations. What's more, Allen has a rather pedestrian, paint-by-numbers directorial style that misses opportunities for portraying both the story and Paris itself with the artistry they deserve. Still, Midnight in Paris is enjoyable for its clever dialogue (which gets many genuine laughs), hopeful message, and winning performances. I just wouldn't call it one of the year's best.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Midnight in Paris is rated PG-13. It has no nudity, sexuality, or violence. Some characters smoke and drink. There are some moderate profanities and a few innuendos. An engaged couple shares a hotel room. Infidelity is portrayed as harmful, though it is treated without, perhaps, the appropriate weight.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: We ought not romanticize the past so much that we lose sight of our opportunities in the present, nor pine for a different life rather than make the most of the one that we have.
Are you an Owen Wilson fan? Looking for another good Wilson flick? Check out the military actioneer Behind Enemy Lines, co-starring Gene Hackman.
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.