By Kyle | June 2, 2011
“Midnight in Paris” is so feeble I’ve hardly bothered to mention it, but it’s puzzling that it is shaping up as Woody Allen’s biggest hit since at least the wonderful “Vicky Christina Barcelona.” David Thomson has a go at it in TNR. John Podhoretz is far more succinct in pointing out the movie’s blatant flaws in The Weekly Standard (though John loves Adrien Brody’s turn as Dali. I think Brody is actually a bad actor and is particularly embarrassing shooting his arm out into the air and pulling wacky faces in this movie. Sorry, you don’t get any points for doing broad clown comedy just because you think you have some sort of intellectual imprimatur.) And by the way: Does Woody Allen actually even have any taste of his own, or did he just borrow his ideas about genius off the shelf from the Museum of Modern Art gift shop?
The movie is intended as a love letter to Paris, but its opening montage seems to have been constructed by typing “Paris” into Google Images and then filming all the pictures in the top row—the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the Louvre, the Tuileries. The travelogue aspect of the movie never strays from the obvious: In the course of Midnight in Paris, the characters visit Monet’s backyard, hear a talk about Rodin, tour Versailles, go to Les Halles, and buy books at Shakespeare and Co. The only thing missing is someone saying, “Ooh la la.”
Evidemment! (Also, when the French say “Ooh la la,” it doesn’t really mean “that’s really sexy.” It generally means, “Tsk tsk” or “That’s a shame.”) The movie seems to have inspired an outbreak of advanced prose empurplement among writers, though. John thinks Woody’s critics are grading on a curve; I think the real reason is that the movie flatters the audience into thinking it is cultured, Francophilic and bright, when in fact liking this movie provides damning evidence against your possession of these qualities. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Paris is going to cringe through that opening scene, and through much else. Anyone who has read any amount of Hemingway knows that the pastiche of him is cheap and too easy. And anyone who doesn’t know that people have always rued having missed some previous golden age — an insight that doesn’t occur to the Owen Wilson character until the very end — hasn’t done much thinking about nostalgia.