The Dinner: Dessert, really--a chocolate croissant and a slice of limoncello cake at Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle's Alaska Junction.
You love the French now, don't you?
The Movie: Midnight in Paris at Parkway Plaza in Tukwila (on South 180th Street, just south of Southcenter Mall).
The Screenplate: Midnight in Paris has a straightforward conceit and dialogue that travels at the speed of humans versus that of light, with long, gorgeous shots of the City of Lights placed at a higher premium than hyper-intellectual one-liners. In its leisurely nature, it is not a unique film. But when pitted solely against Woody Allen's oeuvre, it is the most uniquely subdued film the manic Manhattanite has ever made.
The casting of Owen Wilson as the male lead goes a long way toward accomplishing this. As evidenced in Bottle Rocket, Wilson is fully capable of staying wired conversationally for the length of a feature, but his most natural gear is that of a laid-back Texan with a stoner's twinkle in his eye. While on holiday with his future in-laws in Paris, it becomes quickly apparent that Wilson's Gil, a Hollywood screenwriter who aspires to be a novelist, is mismatched with fiancee Inez (an uncharacteristically yet effectively cunty Rachel McAdams), a materialistic rich girl who can't stand the rain. Naturally, it's when Paris is wet that Gil most enjoys a stroll through the city, and openly announces his desire to move there, much to the chagrin of Inez, who's got her heart set on a beachfront home in Malibu. (In a neat coincidence for omnivorous cinephiles, Inez is the name of the maid Wilson's brother, Luke, falls for in Bottle Rocket.)
One night, while wandering around Paris alone while his wife is off dancing with a former college flame (played with dickish relish by Michael Sheen), Gil enters the back seat of a mysterious vintage automobile, and is quickly whisked to a party, where he meets, in quick succession, Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, and Ernest Hemingway. He correctly ascertains that he's been transported to Paris in the 1920s, his favorite place in his favorite decade.
The next night, Hemingway--played as a manly-man cliche, which is appropriate, because that's exactly how Papa actually preached--is in the car when it arrives at midnight (hence the quite literal title). He takes Gil to have his manuscript reviewed by Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates). At Stein's home when they arrive are Pablo Picasso and his lover, a stunner named Adriana (Marion Cotillard) whom Hemingway openly pines for. And, before long, Gil does too. Ultimately, he must decide whether to return to the present or languish in the past with Adriana.
But, more important, where would Owen Wilson stand a chance of romancing Cotillard, a native Parisian, were the movie transported to West Seattle instead of the '20s? Bakery Nouveau is the only sure bet. They offer expert dishes both savory and sweet, yet when we walked in on a fittingly rainy Sunday night, there were only a few delicacies remaining as the crew tidied up shop before closure. We selected a chocolate croissant that did nothing to disprove the notion that Nouveau makes the city's best croissants, and a limoncello cake that was richer than McAdams' high-rolling dad in the film.
On this sleepy, drizzly evening, it was easy to imagine Wilson convincing Cotillard that, with its mountain and sound views and well-kept bungalows, West Seattle had it all over Paris in the '20s. But imagination, as Allen reminds us, isn't reality, hard as we hope it could be sometimes.