Paris is a gorgeous city, and as proclaimed by the film's star is a piece of art in itself that has no equal. Woody Allen has constructed a film that is about the beauty and majesty of this city and all of the brilliant art and culture that have come out of it. It is also about longing for a different time, and not realizing that as one sits around dreaming of times past there own life is passing them by. This is an amazingly bittersweet film, that plays fast and loose with its rules of logic. We are taken to various time periods as Owen Wilson travels through history speaking to his literary and artistic idols as he searches for a true companion in life. Allen has made a lovely fantastatical film and a perfect pairing with the rest of the films this year that have been so strongly rooted in nostalgia.
Before we get started I wanted to mention Michael Sheen's awesome performance as the friend of Owen Wilson's wife. He brings a definitive douchiness to the pseudo intellectual. Everything out of his mouth is perfectly pretentious and hilarious in its empty appreciation. From his discussion of red wine to his constant use of the phrase " If I remember correctly." Sheen brings it and in a great world it would be him, another fellow in this film, Albert Brooks and Christopher Plummer for best supporting actor.
Alright since we are on performances we might as well discuss the rest. Owen Wilson's specific brand of comedic timing lends itself very well here as he takes on the Woody Allen role here. He keeps all of the typical idosyncratic tics and adds in the right amount of childlike wonder as he traverses the streets of Paris and journeys through time to see all of his literary heroes. Rachel McAdams does solid work as Wilson's fiancée who is perfectly happy simply doing what is expected of a trip to Paris, and continually frustrated with her husbands desire for a more real experience.
The characters Wilson meets on his late night journeys away from his wife are many, and honestly half the fun of the film is catching all allusions from each of the artists represented. I'm not going to spend any time on these characters though, as that would take a whole other piece to cover, but I do want to mention Ernest Hemmingway. Corey Stoll steals the show, as the boozy confident Hemingway. He plays with an old fashioned sense of masculinity, discussing the importance or honest prose, and the love of a good woman squashing fear. It's an amazing performance and deserves to be recognized.
Any fan of Woody Allen knows the guy is clever, his script here is no different, with it's numerous allusions to literary greats. His entire film is dripping with nostalgia, which definitely has been a big theme this yet with films like The Muppets, Hugo, and The Artist dealing with nostalgia in some way. Here Allen examines nostalgia through the arc Wilson takes, as he realizes that you can't constantly long for a different time, because then you'll never be happy. Even if you get the chance to live in that time then you'll be nostalgic for another time. The film shows that rather than be unsatisfied, one should honor the past and find peers with the same interests. And together you can enjoy the brilliance of artists past while at the same time creating new memories and art rather than simply living in a desire for the past.
Allen is such a simple filmmaker in that he has no problem sticking to his guns. He still takes the time to use establishing shots to set up his setting and show the beautiful texture all around Paris. As he takes us through the streets he shows how much art is embedded in the soul of the city. It's no wonder Wilson is in awe of the city and as he learns that Paris is still just as beautiful an that he can create his own magic in the present, we are taken on an amazing adult fairy tale to get there. Like I said in the beginning, Allen plays loose with the logic and it doesn't matter it's not about he travels through time, it's why, and it's more testament to just how magical the city is. Strong work here, and a literary lovers dream.
One last thought - ok have to mention Brody as Dali, holy shit I will watch a whole film of Brody as Dali talking about rhinoceros.