At nearly every theater that was playing The Hangover Part II across the country, lines looped around the theater and stretched down the street amounting to record breaking box office take over the Memorial Day Weekend.
This was not the case for Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris. In fact, two women at least 30 years my senior laughed condescendingly at me for choosing to see Midnight in Paris instead of anything else. Yet, despite it’s ticket sales paling in comparison to the R-rated comedy franchise, Midnight in Paris finally marks the return of the Woody Allen we used to know and love.
The nerdy, self-deprecating absurdist from the ’70s is back with all the brilliant and hilarious hypotheticals that only someone like Allen could come up with. Still fixated on Europe from his last few pictures, Allen grounds us in Paris and starts off similarly enough to Vicki Cristina Barcelona creating a possible love triangle between travelers both enchanted and disenchanted by their tourist destination and their present company.
Then, after all the speculation about Allen’s foray into drama with Match Point and wondering where he would go after Barcelona, Paris takes a left turn that many of his fans wished he would take (spoiler alert) when screenwriter, wishing to be a “true writer” Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is inexplicably transported into Paris in the 1920s during the night, with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway where he shares the book he’s working on with his literary heroes. They don’t question Pender why he’s there and Pender is just stupefied to be talking with Salvador Dali; and it’s hysterical.
Pender can’t ignore the sheer magic of this and consequently ignores his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her incredibly pretentious, pedantic friend Paul (Michael Sheen) making for a collection of hilarious, charming, and endearing moments of characters that should be together, but ultimately can’t and vice versa. There’s a certain sense of renewal from Paris as Allen returns to his absurdist comedic roots and puts Owen Wilson in the “fish out of water, but enjoying it anyway” role perfectly fit for him.
There are several literary, artistic, and cinematic references one would want to know to get much of Paris’ humor, (i.e. jokes about experimental filmmaker and cinema pioneer Luis Buñuel) and there is some credence in the argument that one might not enjoy the film. Still, there’s much to be appreciated and consequently to laugh about with completely unexplained time travel and the multiple love triangles that Pender seems to be caught up in.
If that’s not enticing enough and you’re not one to appreciate the cleverness of referential and situational humor beautifully weaved together (and you’re like my 17 year old sister who texted through the whole thing), there is the option to stand in line for the incredibly broad humor of Hangover Part II, which is getting mixed responses from moviegoers and critics, and/or Bridesmaids, (which is uproariously funny).
Don’t think of Midnight in Paris as pretentious and overly high brow. Think of it as an alternative because we don’t need another broad comedy clogging multiplexes already clogged with broad summer comedies.