Review: Magic in the Moonlight
Do you believe in magic? Stanley, one of the world’s leading magicians, knows that there is no real magic in the world, and that there’s a logical, scientific, explanation for all mystical phenomenon. That is why when he is called upon to debunk an American psychic who seems to be conning a wealthy family with her claims that she can contact their deceased father, he is absolutely certain that she is a phony.
Woody Allen’s latest film is incredibly uneven, as certain moments drag and would have been better off cut from the movie, while others are funny and memorable. Colin Firth plays the leading role, delivering a performance that is the essential Woody Allen, skeptical and with no belief in a God or higher power. This character could not be anymore rooted in Woody Allen’s notorious atheism, but Colin Firth plays it perfectly. The character of Stanley is neurotic, cocky, and often annoying, but when he comes to meet Sophie (Emma Stone), he begins to ease up and falls under her spell. It’s a little jarring how this extreme skeptic quickly buys into Sophie’s dazzle, but the film is a romantic comedy and so there has to be some room for the magic that is love. Emma Stone is superb as Sophie, who the film keeps you guessing if she is a phoney or not. Her beauty is utilized to the utmost degree, demonstrating why the men of the film are so entranced in her. However, her character stands above the typical con-artist, as she is a girl who enjoys her new lavish lifestyle, but also longs for something deeper. Emma Stone and Colin Firth surprisingly have good chemistry, and it is their scenes together that bring out the best moments of the film. The supporting cast which includes Jacki Weaver, Hamish Linklater, Marcia Gay Harden, and Simon McBurney, are all decent, but all play extremely one-note characters.
Both Stone and Firth fit well in Allen’s world, which as it seems to be a new trend of his, takes place in late 1920s France. The set design, costumes, music, and cinematography all make this film feel like it was made in that era. The time period lends to the story as well, as the events that take place in the film would not be much of a mystery in today’s age. This film feels a bit like Woody Allen badgering his own philosophy on the audience, but then again, when isn’t he doing that?
It’s a well-known fact that Woody Allen has been making a film a year for just about his whole career. With a man who churns out that many scripts in that amount of time, there is bound to be some duds. Magic in the Moonlight isn’t awful, but it does not rank amongst the top of Woody Allen’s films, especially when his last film Blue Jasmine, was one the best that this filmmaker has ever made. The cast of Magic in the Moonlight is its saving grace, because the winning performances make the film a bit less dreadful. There are a couple of standout moments, and a few laughs. The dialogue is sometimes clever, but for the most part, is almost propaganda for Woody Allen’s general viewpoint of life. He does poke fun at himself sometimes, but it’s not enough to call Magic in the Moonlight anything more than mediocre. It’s a pretty film to look at, but it is simply not funny enough, in your face, and just outright silly. If more time had been spent on the screenplay, had Allen tightened up a few things and had it been a sharper, more complex insight into the so called “meaning of life” or the existence of any kind of magic in this world, Magic in the Moonlight might have had something interesting to say. Instead, it feels lazy and obvious, and for that, there isn’t very much magic in this film at all.