Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have increased MIDNIGHT IN PARIS’ theater count to 1, 038 screens, which marks the widest release of any Woody Allen film. The film has earned over $16 million dollars to date, so went today’s press release for the film.
Midnight in Paris is successful, I think, not just because it has big stars in it but because, for the first time in many years, a Woody Allen movie has good word of mouth. Why is it so good? It isn’t particularly great. But somehow whatever it has just works really well. The seemingly accidental casting of Owen Wilson does wonders to kickstart Woody’s character template recasting him not as a neurotic intellectual who needs to be pulled out of his shell to become a living, breathing human (usually at the behest of a underage girl) but as a dreamer – someone who takes the dialogue and dances with rather than wrestles it to the ground. And he never tries to sound like Woody Allen either. He sounds like Owen Wilson and somehow that works.
The movie never takes itself too seriously, recalling much earlier works, or even short stories, where the absurdity of life was still bemusing to this filmmaker, instead of wholly depressing and hopeless. Moreover, it dismisses the notion that all of our best days are behind us – instead, it says we are blind to the joys right in front of us because our hearts are trained on the past.
What is remarkable about this is that it is though this director, this man, this human being — Woody Allen — is giving up what he’s long communicated through his work — that all of the great works of literature and film are mostly from days of old. He is also, maybe, communicating a message to his fans who are also continually stuck in the old Woody Allen – refusing to change as he changes.
I wouldn’t have a problem with his films anymore if they were any good. But they haven’t been that good — there is always some kind of character who ruins it (Rachel MacAdams comes very close here). This one IS good. Is it one of his best films? It’s hard to say. His movies tend to settle into their time and most of them age very well. It might be that, in the end, Midnight in Paris does hold up. No, it isn’t Manhattan or Crimes and Misdemeanors or Stardust Memories but it’s certainly up there with Radio Days, Broadway Danny Rose and Zelig.
Me, I was just happy to be able to sink into a Woody Allen movie again and celebrate what a great writer and humanist he still is.
Midnight in Paris remains the one strong contender for a Best Picture nomination this year. I think.