"Flatters to deceive" is a phrase invented by the RTE soccer panel to describe a player who is skilful and tricky, but whose skill and trickery have no "end product". These qualities exist for themselves; they are pure instances of self-indulgence designed to dazzle but destined to disappoint when the veil is removed and the wizard is seen to be a mere conjurer of cheap tricks. Examples of those who "flatter to deceive" are, in particular order: Ricardo Queresma, Yohann Gourcuff, Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez, Philipe Coutinho, Nani, Hatem Ben Arfa, Rafael Van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder...the list goes on, and feel free to add your own or dispute my nominations.
It is a wonderful phrase, of the rare sort that captures an action even better than an action can portray itself. I mention it not for its own sake, but in order to describe Midnight in Paris. This, I think, is a film about flattering to deceive, which itself flatters to deceive. That is not to say I didn't enjoy it, however. I will always find Owen Wilson effortlessly charming when he is required to be just that. Rachel McAdams too, though here she is just the opposite, which speaks of her considerable talent (by the way, her few minutes in To the Wonder are among the most heartbreaking in recent times).
The film itself never quite delivers on its promise. I'm not sure it even intends to (which, perhaps, is just a fancy way of saying "It's supposed to be crap)". It represents the value of form over content, style over substance, and is probably most satisfying if you come to it not hungry, but having just eaten and in the mood for some light dessert. A pavlova, perhaps.
At the end of the day, isn't it fair to say that the players mentioned above have provided more than enough moments to make you somewhat glad they exist (Nani excepted, perhaps), and that the world would be an entirely less pleasing place without the following magnificent piece of skill and trickery. Enchanté en effet, Monsieur Gourcuff et Monsieur Allen.