A variation on the same time-traveling gag is repeated over and over again throughout the film: Salvador Dali/Henri Matisse/F. Scott Fitzgerald, oh my god, I so admire your work! If you only remember the names of a couple of writers and artists from your schooldays, but want to feel smart when you recognize Hemingway or Picasso, this movie is for you. (And don’t worry: If you don’t recognize them, Allen will make sure to hit you over the head several times with their names.) Midnight in Paris is tailor-made for those who have never been to France, but have a poster of the Eiffel Tower on their wall anyway.
Meanwhile, Owen Wilson (who’s usually very watchable) is the most transparent yet miscast Allen surrogate yet. His every line was written with the 35-year-old Allen in mind, but it’s a miserable fit. It’s just embarrassing to watch the great Woody go through this routine: “I can't play the lead anymore, so I’ll make someone play me. Badly.”
And every ten minutes Allen has to remind you that the theme of this movie is capital-N Nostalgia. This isn’t some postmodern breaking of the show-don't-tell-rule. This isn’t a Godard conceit. It’s just lazy filmmaking, which never gets past the thematizing stage. It’s “about” nostalgia to the same extent that Desperate Housewives is about matrimony. It never goes beyond announcing and repeating its theme—like some Broadway musical which keeps reminding you that you’re seeing a Broadway musical in every number, because it has nothing else to say.
Corny doesn’t begin to describe this sub-middlebrow mess. I’m a big Woody Allen fan, and I almost never leave movies, but my friend and I got up and left after the first excruciatingly-stilted 70 minutes. Every one of those minutes made my life both shorter, and poorer.
Match Point? Now there's a great, late Allen film. This one, c’est une perte de temps.