Magic in the Moonlight

"Very Good"

Magic in the Moonlight Review


After the high of last year's Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen is back in playful mode for this rather goofy comedy, which only works for audience members willing to abandon their cynicism and just go with the flow. A solid cast makes the most of Allen's cleverly barbed dialogue, even if the performances and filmmaking sometimes feel a bit slapdash. And Allen's deeper existential themes add a hint of depth to the silliness.

It opens in 1928 Berlin, as the magician Stanley (Colin Firth) is convinced by his friend Howard (Simon McBurney) to travel to the South of France to debunk a young American mystic named Sophie (Emma Stone), who has a wealthy family in her thrall. Not only has Sophie convinced the matriarch (Jacki Weaver) that she can communicate with her dead husband, but she has also attracted the puppy-dog devotion of Brice (Hamish Linklater), the sweetly dim heir to the family fortune. But no matter how hard Stanley tries, he can't prove that Sophie is a fraud, and accepting her supernatural powers completely upends his relentlessly pessimistic view of humanity. Although it's even trickier to convince himself that he might be falling for Sophie.

Allen sets all of this up in a very simple way, prodding Firth to a hilariously ridiculous performance as a repressed Englishman for whom life has to be completely rational. Facing him off against Stone's young, free-flowing American is a bit obvious, but the script makes sure that their barbed banter overflows with witty repartee. This includes astute commentary on Allen's favourite theme: exploring the meaning of life through the contradictory blending of science, religion and human emotion. So even if the performances are rather oddly matched, Firth and Stone find some superb chemistry along the way. Although the snappiest role belongs to Eileen Atkins, as Stanley's beloved aunt, who has a wonderfully dry way of speaking the truth.

Technically, the film feels somewhat clunky, with a structure that lurches jarringly through a series of short, isolated scenes. And like some other more recent Allen projects, acting styles are uneven while fine performers like Weaver and Harden are essentially wasted in underdeveloped roles. At least it looks terrific, beautifully capturing the sunny Riviera setting and sparky characters. Ironically, it's the cynics in the audience who will struggle to enjoy the film, hung up on the awkward pacing and corny characters. But for audiences who are ready to just sit back and enjoy Allen's usual mixture of fizzy comedy and pointed subtext, the film is rather a lot of fun.



Magic in the Moonlight

Facts and Figures

Genre: Comedy

Run time: 97 mins

In Theaters: Friday 15th August 2014

Box Office USA: $10.5M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Production compaines: Perdido Productions, Harbor Picture Company

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Fresh: 77 Rotten: 75

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Edward Walson

Starring: as Stanley Crawford, as Sophie Baker, as Brice, as Mrs. Baker, as Grace, as Caroline, as Aunt Vanessa, as Howard Burkan, as Olivia, Jeremy Shamos as George

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