Woody Allen has at last stopped casting himself in the role of the hero of his films, and that makes for a gain — and a loss. He was never all that convincing as the romantic lead, and indeed his effort to be the lover in his earlier movies made some of us uneasy. But Allen’s presence in those movies also gave an ironic undertone to his romanticism. When the narrative took off into meditations on the everlastingness of love, there was always the bespectacled little nerd saying, “Yes, but what about death?” That was the charm of a Woody Allen movie.
Lacking that small nugget of perversity, Midnight in Paris is a light, diverting fantasy, just in time for summer. In the film a gifted writer, Gil Pender, burdened by his own Hollywood success and a beautiful but lame-brained fiancée, finds freedom in associating with the artists of 1920s Paris. They become available to him only if he manages to get free from his girlfriend’s loud and careless experience of Paris every night at midnight. Finding himself in an atelier like Gertrude Stein’s apartment, he meets another enchanted romantic, in the person of Adriana, a Parisian artist’s model played by Marion Cotillard. Of course, he falls into an impossible romance about her.