Woody Allen returns to form with 'Midnight in Paris'

Woody Allen's ode to the City of Light in the 1920s, Midnight in Paris, is charming, funny and lyrical, his best film in years.

It's the story of an unhappy Hollywood screenwriter, played by Owen Wilson, who magically gets to do what many of us fantasize about: rub elbows with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali, T.S. Eliot, Josephine Baker, Luis Buñuel, Man Ray, Gertrude Stein and other artistic luminaries drawn to the French metropolis at the height of the Jazz Age.

Half the fun of Midnight in Paris — which received a Screen Actors Guild nomination for best motion picture ensemble and a Golden Globe nomination for best comedy or musical — is catching the references.

At one point, Wilson's Gil suggests to Buñuel that he make a film about a dinner party where the guests never leave. The joke is, of course, that was the Spanish director's The Exterminating Angel, released in 1962.

The other half is Allen's witty and wry script. While not breaking any new ground for the director, it seems to have given a new shine to all those things we love about his films.

Gil — nicely played by the laid-back Wilson — is on a premarital trip to Paris with his irritating fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her equally irritating parents. Gil sees it as a city of love — Inez one of shopping — but he doesn't feel it. One night, choosing to explore the town on his own, he gets a ride that whisks him to his fantasy world of the past, where he meets his idols, who seem to be on their own endless party.

During his eventful night he falls for the beautiful Adriana (Marion Cotillard). Ironically, she dreams of living in the Belle Epoque of Paris in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and she finds the 1920s dull. Some people, as Allen observes, are never satisfied.

But I was, with Midnight in Paris.

It retails for $30.99, $35.99 on Blu-Ray.