Gil has had a lifelong affinity with the City of Light from previous trips there as a younger man but also from reading the books by about the many authors and painters that came there in the 1920's and before. He longs to see Paris as it was in the period of "The Lost Generation" when talented American artists like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, the singer-dancer Josephine Baker, the surrealist photographer Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) and the salon gran-de dame Gertrude Stein could and did rub shoulders with the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel and other charming and witty people who made the area a synthetic cyclone of bohemian energy in their after-hours prowlings.
By a bit of understated magic, Gil gets that chance to travel back in time via an old taxi with a claxon horn. What happens to him when he visits 1920's Montparnasse and other sections of Paris for a few magic nights (exactly as it was over 80 years earlier) both fulfills an impossible dream and also open his eyes to the realities of that time and place. Gil also meets the beautiful Adriane (Marion Cotillard) at a party featuring Cole Porter at the piano. The prospect of them falling in love leaves Gil with achoice: should he go back to his well-paid hack screenwriting work in Hollywood or stay behind in the 20's with a woman more artistically in tune wiith him than Inez and her annoying friends and boorish parents?
The idea of a "golden era" fixation (a nostalgia for an earlier time beyond a person's own lifetime) is fully explored with both its delectable possibilities and bittersweet realities. Woody Allen's insights here on this aspect of the human condition are both sharp and clever as he's ever been.
This is a film that would be interesting to anyone who enjoys romantic comedies (especially ones that emphasize romance over silliness and foul language) and also those who are charmed by seeing celebrated artists like Hemingway and the Fitzgerald's brought to life again with their ideas, passions, wit and perhaps fatal flaws on full display. Whichever one you prefer, this film will not disappoint.
Rachel Mc Adams is very good as the incredulous fiancee and Michael Steen shines as a pedantic twit who gets under Gil's skin with his constant showing off.