The sole thing that Woody Allen hopes to carry you through his excuse to film Paris is the charisma of his leading character, Gil, yet that character exerts the nervous ticks we familiarize with Woody Allen’s roles in his earlier movies. It’s not to say Owen Wilson isn’t talented, but he doesn’t have the natural squeamishness that made Allen’s acting the more realistic and meaningful; he is blathering about his emotions with the same gestures, slamming his arms palms-up through the air trying to prove a point, gasping abruptly and so on, but he’s acting a wee too much.
The story follows Gil, an aspiring writer in America, when he and his engaged partner go to Paris with her mother and father on business. Gil has a never-had nostalgia for Paris and soaks in its colors and atmosphere like a quill on ink; it helps his mind for writing his novel, which will get him out of working for Hollywood like he used to do, the occupation Inez (Rachael McAdams) wants him to continue, for money purposes we can see.
The film sets us point-blank aware that Inez is a buzz-kill to Gil’s Romeo-like fantasies, and this fact can sometimes make the movie endlessly irritating. What is the purpose of making a type for a character so transparent, and then spend so much time using the character to mimic and indignify as we expect, the one character, Gil, we are suppose to like and appreciate? This is done not only through Inez’s outbursts, but also Paul (Michael Sheen), an academic type who Inez becomes dreamy over in the course of him explaining the great art of Paris. The lack of devotion truly shows Gil’s naive colors, and I suppose it matches his persona of innocence and primal beauty.
It’s difficult to not see the characters like Hemingway and Salvador, especially Salvador played by Adrien Brody, as being a vanity exercise for the actors. They are unpersuasive in the roles, but it is a comedy and the pleasantries should not subside with realism. The character I found to be the truest, most scene-stealing was Adriana played by Marion Cotillard, who swings from man to man in the search for a true love–and through looking at historical notebooks of Adriana’s in the present, Gil comes to find she does love him.
The theme presents itself in Allen’s admirable passion for the movies of the past; In fact, there is an ode to Luis Bunuel’s “The Exterminating Angel” when Gil sees him in a bar and then pitches Bunuel’s own future movie, which he responds in misunderstanding; “Why can’t they just get up and leave”. He is the kind of director who looks back at the Hollywood eras and wants to arrive their first-stop; but each period has its problems, the truth is told, and the glory days of Hollywood or any time has no exceptions. Despite the depiction of the characters outside of the 20s, the film is a passionate essay on the nature of acceptance and denial, of writing, life, and birth-era.