On vacation, Gil and Inez are exploring the streets of Paris but seem to be experiencing the trip in two completely different ways. Inez seems to be intoxicated by her best friend’s husband while Gil is in love with the magic of the city. Looking to take in the sights and sounds of Paris, Gil splits off from Inez and her friends one evening to eventually find himself lost. When a random classic car pulls up and invites him to tag along, he reluctantly gets in and winds up at a party seemingly straight out of the 1920s. Meeting the random guests of the evening, he discovers the personalities of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Taken away by the experience, he travels back to the same spot night after night to be swept away to a more “artistic” time in hopes of enjoying the ride and improving his novel.
Starring: Owen Wilson (Gil), Rachel McAdams (Inez), Kurt Fuller (John), Mimi Kennedy (Helen), Michael Sheen (Paul), Nina Arianda (Carol), Carla Bruni (Museum Guide), Yves Heck (Cole Porter), Alison Pill (Zelda Fitzgerald), Corey Stoll (Ernest Hemingway), Tom Hiddleston (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Sonia Rolland (Josephine Baker), Kathy Bates (Gertrude Stein), Marcial Di Fonzo Bo (Pablo Picasso), Marion Cotillard (Adriana), Lea Seydoux (Gabrielle), Adrien Brody (Salvador Dali), David Lowe (TS Eliot), Yces-Antoine Spoto (Henri Matisse), Olivier Rabourdin (Paul Gauguin)
Owen Wilson is basically Woody Allen in this feature. Sporting Allen’s famous stutter and long-winded rants, Wilson is able to emote a sense of surprise and awe as he tries to navigate the reason why he keeps traveling back in time. He also performs beautifully with being caught between two times and expressing a sense of being trapped in a relationship that does not work and a life that is inhibiting his abilities. Rachel McAdams plays a woman who is perfectly happy manipulating her partner while living a life of luxury supported by his writing career and her parents’ success. She seems naive to her obsessions over Paul and refuses to allow Gil the chance to even explore his true passions. Between each of the actors playing classic artists and writers (Yves Heck as Cole Porter, Alison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald, Tom Hiddleson as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway, Sonia Rolland as Josephine Baker, Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali, Marion Cotillard as Adriana, Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, David Lowe as T. S. Eliot and more), the cast brings life to these well known classic figures in a way that brings humor and depth to their portrayal.
Woody Allen likes to write himself into his films and found the perfect person to bring a sense of magic and wonder to this story. While it seems to be a romance film involving a misunderstood writer, it actually goes much deeper into exploring the concept of not fitting into one’s time and finding purpose in one’s life. Gil is running into a problem that many experience (wanting to know the bigger picture and feel like he fits in), but he explores this through an exploration of life among his literary and artistic heroes. The relationship he develops with Adriana, in particular, provides a similar personality to judge his own problems from an external perspective. While never clear how he traveled back in time, he has a childlike excitement as he interacts with each of these creative personalities. While knowing that Inez is emotionally unfaithful through her relationship with Paul and Adriana is attracted to men who can never satisfy her big passion for life, he figures out in the end that he can only be happy if he rearranges his life to truly find what it means to be happy.
This film is truly one of the best films of 2011 so far. There is a true fantasy element that takes you back in time and instills a belief that you are actually meeting these famous personalities. Woody has certainly created a magical film that is a needed break from the traditional summer blockbusters and poor summer comedies.
Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5