I don’t have much to add to what Michelle said about Midnight in Paris (to recap: not nearly as good as The Purple Rose of Cairo, Owen Wilson is a blank nonentity at the center of it, and Woody Allen seems genuinely unable to see beyond the bridge of his own glasses anymore), but I did want to acknowledge that I enjoyed myself. Of course, I’m the target audience for this movie (is there any historically-minded writer who hasn’t, even if only briefly, fantasized about literary Paris in the 1920s?), and I’m sure there were people in the theater who thought I was laughing just to let them know I got the jokes. (Honestly. You can’t take me anywhere.)
The primary joy of the movie is in the performances. Kathy Bates as a no-nonsense Gertrude Stein was lovable (although leave it to Woody to suggest that her real talent was for shepherding male geniuses to publication, not her own brilliant writing), Adrien Brody as a manic Salvador Dalí was genuinely funny, and Corey Stoll’s Ernest Hemingway was the highlight of the movie, a parody of self-confident masculinity which Allen frankly and uncomplicatedly envies. (If I don’t see a gif of “Who wants to fight?” on Tumblr within the year, I will be highly disappoint.)
But on the whole it was poorly written, the modern-day sequences all uniformly intolerable whether it was Rachel McAdams’ shrewish family, Michael Sheen’s strawman pedant, or the Magical French Women helping Owen Wilson to his minor insights. I don’t want to spoil the biggest laugh in the movie, but a hundred minutes of the private investigator taking wrong turns would have been much more enjoyable, and possibly just as consequential.