Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Woody Allen (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”)
Written by: Woody Allen (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you had been born in another time period? Imagine experiencing the Renaissance in the early 16th century or witnessing the birth of Hollywood’s silent film era in the late 1880s.

The idea is something three-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Woody Allen (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) experiments with in his new film “Midnight in Paris,” a smartly-written, whimsical romantic comedy that just so happens to include a charming little time-traveling storyline that fits in wonderfully.

In “Midnight in Paris,” Owen Wilson (“Marley & Me”) stars as Gil, an American screenplay writer and self-described “Hollywood hack,” who travels to France with his boorish fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents and ends up going on an adventure on his own. Gil enjoys Paris well enough, but he wonders what it would’ve been like to be there during the Roaring 20s when art and literature were at a historical peak.

When Gil decides he no longer wants to hang out with Inez and her snooty friends (Michael Sheen plays a know-it-all intellect to perfection), he decides to take in Paris by himself by going on a late-night stroll through the city. In a magical and Cinderellaeque twist, Gil steps into a mysterious car at the stroke of midnight and is somehow transported back in time to the 1920s where he meets the like of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso, all of whom inspire his own work as an aspiring novelist.

The time traveling scenario happens every night at the same time and Gil takes full advantage of his newfound friends. He even gets writer Gerturude Stein (Kathy Bates) to read over his own manuscript and give him some priceless constructive criticism. During his nightly trips back to the era (the time-traveling scenario happens every night and every night Gil somehow returns home without explanation), Gil ends up meeting one of Picasso’s mistresses (Marion Cotillard), a French socialite who also wishes she could have been born in another era, specifially the Belle Epoque.

As picturesque as most of Allen’s past work that embraces particular cities like New York and Barcelona, “Midnight in Paris” is a refreshing fantasy that takes being inspired to a whole new level. It might not reach the greatness of some of Allen’s classics, but “Paris” easily arouses the artist’s passion in all of us.

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