Midnight in Paris may be Woody Allen's best effort in years

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      Directed and written by Woody Allen. Starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams. Rated G. Opens Friday, June 3, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas

      No apologies need be offered for Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s most satisfying—and his funniest—effort in many years. Owen Wilson may be as goyish as a jar of mayonnaise in a polo shirt, but the shaggy-haired actor has just the right mix of intellectual disgruntlement and childlike wonder to bring new life to Allen’s latest alter ego. His youngish Gil is a Hollywood screenwriter on vacation in Paris with rich-chick fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams, obviously enjoying this cartoon character), and her snooty Republican parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), still mad at the French for not jumping on America’s crazy wagon in Iraq.

      The girlfriend is one sexy nightmare, more interested in shopping than in Gil’s hoped-for switch to “serious” writing, and she’s distracted by the arrival of a college beau (Michael Sheen) who knows too much about everything. (He’s “the pedantic fellow”, according to a tour guide played by Carla Bruni.) Rather than compete with this snobbier version of himself, Gil goes for long walks at night in the rain.

      The romantically bad weather somehow carries him back in time (don’t ask), and the writer is suddenly in the company of the Paris émigré elite of the 1920s. When a chest-beating Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) agrees to pass his “futuristic” novel to Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Gil encounters such notables as Luis Buñuel (Adrien de Van) and Salvador Dalí­ (Adrien Brody). More crucially, he meets Picasso’s current sad-eyed muse (Marion Cotillard) and feels other stirrings. She, however, is awash with nostalgia for la belle époque—a period far more fascinating than the boring ’20s.

      Some of this is haphazardly staged, but Allen is breezily concise, especially as the story heats up. He, too, yearns for better, deeper times—American Idol versus Cole Porter? C’mon—but the movie has plenty of love for today, too.

      Watch the trailer for Midnight in Paris.