Woody Allen has got Cannes ’11 off to a lightly likeable and aptly French-flavoured start with his latest, Midnight In Paris.
Echoing Allen’s Manhattan, the movie opens with an extended montage of postcard views of the French capital.
If you think this is the writer/director romanticising Paris out of all proportion, wait until its central conceit kicks in.
Frustrated Hollywood screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson) has literary aspirations and a yen for the roaring 20s – two desires he gets the chance to fulfil in an unexpected way each time the clock strikes midnight.
Managing not to outstay its welcome – just – it’s a gimmick that recalls Allen oldies Zelig and The Purple Rose Of Cairo .
Or you could call it an arthouse Goodnight Sweetheart, with Luis Bunuel in-jokes instead of Nicholas Lyndhurst.
While Wilson, Adrien Brody, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen and Tom Hiddleston all shine, Rachel McAdams sadly draws the short straw as Gil’s shrewish, unsympathetic fiancée.
Speaking in a press conference, Allen admitted he nearly didn’t cast McAdams opposite Wilson because they’d previously worked together on Wedding Crashers.
He also revealed the secret of his success with actors: “The trick of casting is to hire great people, let them do what they do, don’t interfere too much…
“And then when they’re great, take credit for it. I’ve done this for many years and it works like a charm!”