By Kyle | May 11, 2011
In Woody Allen’s semi-unbearable new item “Midnight in Paris,” the businessman who is about to become the father-in-law of the hero (Owen Wilson) is all but stamped “evil Republican.” Allen’s bleat on what Republicans are like couldn’t be more boring, but then again the whole movie is boring (except for one scene about the limits of nostalgia). Wilson, who plays a hack screenwriter who wishes to ditch Beverly Hills and become a starving novelist in Paris, thinks he is being reasonable when he opines that only a “demented lunatic” could be a Republican. (Allen thinks this is a big laugh line. He’s right! The tiny audience that will see this movie will laugh. They know exactly what to expect from an Allen movie and they come to have their prejudices reinforced. Almost like they’re….closed-minded reactionaries. And I say this as a 35-year-fan of Woody’s work who wrote a paper on him in 10th grade and has seen both “Sleeper” and “Take the Money and Run” over a dozen times.) Later Wilson, channeling Woody (and doing the usual sub-Woody stammering and cringing a la John Cusack in “Bullets Over Broadway” and Kenneth Branagh in “Celebrity”) calls the Tea Party a bunch of “crypto-fascist airhead racists” (or words to that effect). Again, there’s nothing funny about the line. But one laughs, I guess, because it’s cozy to think that one is united in one’s hatreds with Woody Allen. I expect wit from Woody Allen, not meaningless gestures.
As for Allen’s bitterest epithet, “pseudo-intellectual,” well… this movie is written by a college dropout who (a little too insistently) peppers his scripts with references to Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Ibsen, etc. Allen has Wilson travel back in time to meet Ernest Hemingway (who talks like a Middle Schooler spoofing “The Old Man and the Sea”) and Salvador Dali (who keeps thrusting his arm out to cry, “I am Dali!” while blathering about the rhinoceros). This is not what you would call an intellectual script; however, it does the audience the immense favor of flattering it and making it feel smart (hey, that guy’s Picasso!). Don’t underestimate how fond critics are of feeling smart.