Midnight in Paris

In theaters.

Like most Woody Allen movies, Midnight in Paris has a sort of moral thesis. You can see it coming miles away: a compassionate but unromantic warning about the pitfalls of idealizing the past. But as my brother pointed out to me when I was trying to articulate some of my frustrations with the film, Midnight is actually quite reluctant to accept its own moral. It pays lip service to the idea that such idealization can be isolating even as the movie itself looks backward with rosy, starstruck vision. The present is populated by staggeringly superficial, affected, monochromatic drones, while the past—specifically the expatriate community of 1920s Paris—glitters with brilliant, generous, passionate artists. Not only is that a bit flaky from a thematic perspective, it makes for a wildly uneven film, ricocheting between shrill, heavy-handed scenes and utterly charming scenes. The latter make Midnight in Paris worth seeing, but the former temper the pleasure of it.