A charming, sweet film, that explores the nature of nostalgia (its glow
and its darker shadows), and shows off Paris, both modern day, and in
the 1920s, almost as beautifully as Manhattan showed off New York.
Laced with wonderful cameo and supporting performances (Adrien Brody,
Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard, Corey Stoll, just to name a few) and
gifted by a quirky, lovably sad Owen Wilson as a sort of Eyeore of a
struggling writer in the lead.
Wilson is probably the best stand in yet for Allen in one of his films,
precisely because he's so different from Allen, and doesn't seem to be
doing an Allen impersonation. (Even Allen admitted that part of the
appeal in casting Wilson was casting someone so far from himself).
The 94 minutes of the film flew by, and never lost it's charm.
A number of professional critics noted that this was a new tone for
Allen, neither laugh out loud comedy, nor serious drama (or, as in his
greatest films a combination of the two), but is more of a light drama,
with a gentle comic whimsy. I actually think Allen started exploring
this interesting new tone with his last film 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark
Stranger' And it does seem to have reinvigorated him.
I did have a couple of problems with the film. First, Rachel McAdams as
Wilson's fiancé, along with her family, were made too caraciturish, too
obviously 'bad' for a film this subtle. McAdams is a brilliant actress,
but here she seems pushed into being a symbol of all that's wrong with
shallow, materialistic Americans.
More problematically, after gently, subtly exploring it's themes for
the whole film, Allen suddenly starts laying them on very thick at the
end, putting them very literally into the dialogue, almost as if he
doesn't trust us to be smart enough to get the point of the whole
lovely film he just showed us.
But these are minor complaints, and while this may not be one of
Allen's great films, it is a very good one, and that makes it special
and worth seeking out.