Who's In It: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Michael Sheen, Carla Bruni, Tom Hiddleston, Mimi Kennedy, Alison Pill, Lea Seydoux, Corey Stoll
The Basics: Owen Wilson is a romance-and-nostalgia-minded Hollywood screenwriter on vacation in Paris with his spoiled, pragmatic fiance (McAdams) and her hostile parents. What he wants most of all is to stay there and soak up whatever he can find of the city's history, specifically his favorite era, the 1920s, when people like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso were all mingling in the same artistic circle. Realizing that he's ambivalent about both his girlfriend and returning to the United States, he strolls the city late at night, thinking of a novel he's trying to finish. And then a mysterious car pulls up and takes him to meet F. Scott Fitzgerald. In other words, it's Woody Allen's Back to the Future.
What's The Deal: Fans know that their annual appointment with Woody Allen turned into what felt like an obligation a while ago, like visiting an old uncle you used to enjoy but who's now turned cranky and weird. Occasionally you get to hear him tell a funny, exciting, moving story that he hasn't already rehashed a dozen times before. But mostly, these days, he's even less reliable than the even/odd quality of the Star Trek theatrical franchise. So here's the good news: pretend that after Vicki Christina Barcelona he didn't make two of the cruddiest movies of his career and just accept this one as his next piece of work. It's the funniest comedy he's delivered in years. Lightweight, sweet, pointed, mature, about something more than some old guy wanting to stare at Scarlett Johansson wearing a bikini and, best of all, it requires that the audience know at least a little about people like Man Ray and Luis Buñuel. Finally, the fact that you paid attention in class gets rewarded at the movies.
Vintage Woody Allen Movie It Most Resembles: The Purple Rose of Cairo, but in reverse. It's a fantasy about a modern person exploring a mythical literary fantasy universe. And like Cairo, it's got a melancholy streak, this time about the danger of getting stuck in the past and the now, summed up when one character says, "The present is unsatisfying... life is unsatisfying." Of course, if Zelda Fitzgerald wanted to party with you till dawn and Hemingway kept challenging you to drinking games, you might be tempted to get stuck there too.
Funded By The French Council Of Tourism: One thing Woody Allen does better than anyone is travelogue you into submission, making you love a city you might not have ever even visited. Before I got a chance to set foot in New York City as an adult, I learned about it as a kid by watching his films. And the opening few minutes of this one--nothing but music accompanied by an awesome montage of amazing Paris stuff--will make you want to book a flight there as soon as the Euro-to-dollar exchange rate gets a little nicer. You half expect Audrey Tautou as Amelie to jump off the screen and whisk you around on her scooter.
Weirdest Part: Listening to Owen Wilson talk in that Woody Allen way that all his leading men have to attempt like some kind of dangerous Jackass stunt.