Has Owen Wilson found his game changer?

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There has been a lot said about Owen Wilson over the years, not all of it entirely complimentary. As actors go, Wilson has never been considered the most versatile, but his floppy blonde hair, misshapen nose and smooth American drawl have always been somewhat charming. Certainly charming enough to keep on drawing in solid audiences at the box office at any rate, which is all Hollywood really asks of its stars. His performances in hits such as Night at the Museum 1 & 2, The Wedding Crashers and Marley and Me have kept the bills paid for the 42 year old actor in recent years. There have even been some glimpses of greatness though, in quirky offerings such as The Darjeeling Limited and an Oscar Nominated turn in The Royal Tenenbaums.

If the current talk across the pond is anything to go by though, Wilson may have really found his calling when he accepted the lead in Woody Allen’s new star studded production Midnight in Paris which also features Rachel McAdams, Marion Cortillard, Kathy Bates and Michael Sheen. Since Allen opted to stop casting himself in the lead roles of his movies there have been many pretenders who have tried to take up the fast-talking, ponderous and often morbid mantle that a Woody Allen protagonist must display. Few have come close to replicating Allen’s tone. Owen Wilson, on the other hand, seems to have been born for the job.

Wilson is, apparently, a revelation. If like me you have watched and enjoyed many of Woody Allen’s films it is easy to imagine Wilson’s voice lending itself perfectly to the quick-wit and chaos of Allen’s superb dialogue. Careers have been transformed by Woody Allen many times in the past: look at the success of Diane Keaton who has starred in a multitude of his films and finally earned an Oscar for her turn in Annie Hall. More recently, Penelope Cruz got her hands on the Golden Statuette thanks to a fiery performance as the bilingual, sexually-free, maniacal Maria Elena in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Perhaps, just perhaps, Allen can work his magic for Wilson too.

Midnight in Paris has already been a surprise hit at the box office in America having now crossed the $50 million mark and officially becoming Allen’s highest grossing effort ever in a career that has been glowing but not particularly well attended at the cinema. It’s been described as ‘thoroughly uplifting’ and although I’m sure fans of Wilson’s usual laugh-out-loud fare may be disappointed if they expect the same kind of humour, I think most will enjoy the more gentle comedy of this film. I’m also hearing news of a re-release in America to kick start Oscar season so a few nominations may just be on the cards.

The trailer looks promising although it gives little away other than a few one-liners and some beautiful shots of Paris which replaces New York as Allen’s muse this time around. Allen has, of late, been taking something of a tour of Europe with his movies rather than sticking to his beloved Manhattan. When October 7th comes around I can’t help but wonder if I will be the only one in the cinema or if we Brits will embrace this movie with the same fervour that has seen sell-out after sell-out screenings over in the USA. It matters little of course. Allen will remain a legend whether he finds more financial success here or not, but it would be nice for a new generation of fans to discover his style.

As for Owen Wilson? He’ll always have his critics, there’s no doubt about that. He is, of course, lacking in versatility but it is his likeability that keeps him employed – is that really so bad? Is it better to be stunningly versatile but have a detestable personality such as the much revered Sean Penn? I’m not sure. Either way, I implore you to give Wilson a try. He’ll most likely be very Owen-Wilson-y but I also suspect that it will be his very himness (I hope you are embracing the linguistic inventions within this sentence) that makes him magnetic in this film.

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