Woody Allen's latest film, heralded in some quarters as a return to form, is clever and funny and there are many film-makers who'd be happy to produce something thus labelled. But that is about it and I kind of expected more from Woody Allen.
On holiday in Paris with his fiancee, script writer turned wannabe novelist Gil (Owen Wilson) goes for midnight walks across the city. One night he is picked up by a vintage car and transported back to his favourite era, the Paris of Hemmingway and Fitzgerald, Gaugin and Dali. Indeed he is literally transported back in time and so starts a series of encounters with his favourite writers and their contemporaries from the art world of the day.
Meanwhile back in the real world his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) is reigniting an old friendship with Paul, an intellectual braggart (Michael Sheen) and you can see what is coming from a mile off.
OK so it's a pleasant enough ride, sentimental but in a good way. It's high brow in its references but even with my limited knowledge of the writers of the period there was enough to amuse and engage. It is has some nice little cameos - Adrien Brody as Dali is favourite. And yes it is cleverly contrived but I didn't bound out of the cinema thinking 'wow that was great'. It was more 'that was fun now what is next?'
I think the problem, for me anyway, is that the central couple just aren't likeable. Inez and Gil seem incompatible from the outset and are irritating in their own ways. I've never really warmed to Owen Wilson as an actor and he gets the 'the Woody Allen role', the sort of mumbling-bumbling-whiney personality which inevitable makes me bristle and feel all assertive and full of Kathy Bates-esque no nonsense. Bates, incidentally, was my favourite character in it, playing the literary agent of the day, Gertrude Stein. If Allen set out to make us sentimental about the past he did it by giving all the period pieces the charm and interesting characters.
So yes it was fun and clever and a mildly interesting exploration of our rose-tinted view of the past but it was also at times predictable and at little irritating. I'm sure when I check the critics will have loved it but for me it was a pleasant 'OK' and I'm going to give it 60%.