I can usually take or leave Woody Allen but he made the City of Lights appropriately luminous - it leapt off the screen in colour and energy and if I could have closed my eyes and clicked my heels together, I would have given anything to be transported there (minus the guy who was periodically kicking the back of my seat).
Owen Wilson plays Gil, a successful screenplay writer in Hollywood whose aspirations of writing a breakout novel are frustrated by writers' block, disillusionment and anxiety. These stressors are compounded by his fiancee, Inez (played by Rachel McAdams) who can't help but point out Gil's flaws - whether he is in the room or not. The movie obviously starts at a point where the relationship between Gil and Inez is strained, though neither of them will openly admit it. At midnight, when Gil takes his walks through the quiet backstreets of Paris, he is transported back to the City in the 1920s, the time that Gil feels Paris was truly at its most inspirational.
Through Gil's time travels, we meet artistic luminaries like Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Hemingway and others. It doesn't take much to be envious of Gil's adventures and to secretly wish to have been a fly on the wall at some of these riotous late-night creative gatherings.
The movie did get me thinking though, about what time period I would like to live in, if I could cherry pick such things. When I was a little girl, we used to visit Australian colonial settlements to see what life was like "in the olden days". I remember my cousin and I desperately yearned to live back then - to go to school and write on slate, ride horses, and wear those full skirts with aprons. Clearly the lack of sanitation, medicines and equal rights for women had not come into our thinking then.
Now if I had my choice, I'd be hard pressed to know when or where I'd like to quantum leap. I love the idea of old time Hollywood - the glory days of Marilyn, Bogart & Bacall, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. Or the early years of my parents generation - with the Beatles, Elvis and the Stones in the charts and people went "necking" at the drive-in and to dances (in gloves!). Plus sanitation, medicines, and equal rights for women. Hmm.
If there was a moral in the Woody Allen film, I think it's more about the fact we're never completely satisfied living in our present. There is always something we'd change if we could, and other times and places can somehow seem more attractive than the reality we're currently living.
Still, for my money, tonight's reality of emerging from 1920 Paris into 2011 New York ain't half bad. I think I'll keep living that present for the time being, if you don't mind.