I love Woody Allen, however, even I would concede that he looked like he was entering another lean period after 2008's Vicky Christina Barcelona. Given that this movie and 2005's Match Point seemed to be the exceptions rather than the rule in a series of disappointing cinematic outings, some could be forgiven for asking whether the legendary writer and director had lost his spark. I never thought so, as we were hardly talking about the implosion of credibility suffered by George Lucas, and in any case Midnight in Paris came out in 2011. Now, with To Rome with Love opening in the UK next month and after a recently released documentary about Woody Allen, I thought it would be a good time to look back and pick out some reasons why Midnight in Paris was such a hit.
6. A Good Woody Allen
Woody Allen is always in his movies, even when he is not in his movies. As he writes and directs his own stuff his work is bound to have his signature all over it, but the more passionate Woody Allen seems to be about his films the more his personality just flows through onto the screen; whether he is there or not. Midnight in Paris was just one of those movies. Only a real fan of Hemmingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Picasso and so on could capture their essence, quirks and personalities on screen as Woody Allen did. Indeed, only a true nostalgic could make Gils fantasies of tuberculosis in a dingy 1920s Parisian attic sound appealing. Even Gils disillusionment of being a Hollywood hack must have been born out of the writers own frustrations with an industry which is more likely to greenlight Police Academy 8 than take a chance on a young creative writer. Gil wanting to leave Hollywood and write in Paris is effectively what Woody Allen had done with his own career. No, it felt to me like the most personal Woody Allen movie in years and I believe that if he had shot it 30 years ago he would have cast himself as Gil Pender. Indeed, I can just imagine Woody Allen having a go at John for supporting the Tea Party Movement in Owen Wilson's place. It is therefore ironic that Owen Wilsons performance stands out as one of the core reasons the movie succeeded. Owen Wilson is a screenwriter in his own right and a great comedic actor. His neurotic, hands in pockets, nostalgic, romantic, democrat was the best embodiment of the spirit of Woody Allen on screen for years. He had the youth, the good looks and intelligence to pull off the role of the head-in- the clouds romantic but Owen also had the maturity and range to emote the world weariness, neurosis and awkwardness of the older man penning his words. To me, his performance looked so familiar but also so fresh.