Okay, here are a couple of important facts: 1). Paris is my favorite city in the world. ( I’ve spent a lot of time there.) 2). I love most of Woody Allen’s films, and thought “Vicky Christina, Barcelona” was great, absolutely one of his best. 3). I’m a big fan of Owen Wilson. ( Probably my favorite of his roles being,” The Royal Tannenbaums,”, but who’s counting).
Take these facts as given. So, somebody please tell me why, except for a few parts, here and there,
I was not very amused, or engaged.
The opening Paris montage is terrific/classic, and in fact, got an ovation in the theatre I saw it in, me included. And right away, he started out with a Vicky Christina vibe, even with the Spanish guitar. What a nice twist, to flip Owen Wilson into the Scalett Johanson role, full of wanderlust, in search of his authentic, artisitic self. But here, the mismatched love interest, Rachel McAdams, along with her smothering family, are sketched in only the broadest, most cliched terms. She’s never a believable partner for Owen Wilson’s character. Allen succedded in making all the Barcelona characters real and interesting, even in their clichenesss. That’s a big part of his usual genius. But here, they seemed tossed off , without much conviction, only to serve as the barest of warmups for the main act. For me, it was this very strategy; that the “real-time” part of the dramatic narrative, which he sucks us into first, is then revealed as really just a minimal prelude for the protagonist’s midnight fantasy adventures, that harms the movie. It’s a bait and switch which left me feeling misdirected and sort of betrayed. The real businness here is Wilson’s midnight, historical journeys, which seemed, to me, like skits for Sautuday Night Live, inserted, uncomfortably, into a a traditonal drama. There were certainly some moments of amusement , especially the Hemmingway character (the best non Kevin Kline, Kevin Kline performance in a while.) But to make Marion Cotillard seem silly is hard to do. But Le volia.
For me, the lack of a consistent tone made the movie an awkward pastiche. To squander Paris, and all these wonderful actors, drove me a little insane. I kept feeling like It could and should, have been much funnier, more engaging, and better balanced in its realization of Wilson’s multi-verse.
I thought that Marie Antoinette had already exhausted the ” Let them eat cake,” sentiment.
I was anticipating- and longing for- a hearty bistro meal, but got instead, an amuse bouche.