Monday, August 11, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight: Movie Review


A whimsical air of love and magic.
There are two movies within Magic in the Moonlight. One is a plot-driven, thematically-heavy comedy about a realist magician desperate to unmask the secrets of a spiritualist. The second is like a romantic drama asking if opposites can attract. The former is much better but knowing that Woody Allen isn’t going to include unconnected ideas, the film can be quite good for his die hard fans. 2014

Directed by: Woody Allen

Screenplay by: Woody Allen

Starring: Colin Firth, Emma Stone

The comedy is very much on the light and minimal end, but that just allows for a more interesting element of magic in the air and even an element of simple human relationships drama. It also allows Colin Firth to show his full-range of abilities honed through-out his career. From the romantic comedy of Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) to the mature drama of Devil’s Knot (2014), this is Firth at his comedic best. He opens the film as a rude and arrogant magician – never being his true self.

Left to right: Hamish Linklater as Brice, Emma Stone as Sophie,
Colin Firth as Stanley and Jacki Weaver as Grace. Photo by Jack English
© 2014 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Stanley (Firth) is then told about a young woman in France who is a successful spiritualist and becoming quite a celebrity in connecting wealthy people with their loved ones who have passed on to another world. Before even meeting Sophie (Emma Stone), Stanley has already decided that she’s making it up along with scheming mother in an attempt to swindle money out of gullible people. After all, he’s a realist. There is no God, there is no other world, and there is no magic.

At this point the typical comedy of Woody Allen should be obvious. The world is made up of two types of people: optimistic spiritualists and pessimistic realists. Or in other words, people who are crazy and people who are right. It also includes his usual witticisms about life and death. In a hopefully-to-be-classic line, he sums up life as: “You’re born, you commit no crimes, and then you’re sentenced to death.”

Left to right: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie.
Photo by Jack English © 2014 Gravier Productions,
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
The film seems to drag in the middle after the plot of Stanley uncovering whatever Sophie is up to is concluded in a seemingly swift manner and then we’re watching a romantic drama. Sophie is supposed to marry the wealthy, appropriate but immature Brice (Hamish Linklater) and Stanley is engaged to the successful, appropriate but emotionless Olivia, but of course nature has other plans. The key in getting through this section is knowing that Stanley is never being his true self and this is a film about illusions, magic, deceit and trickery.

Magic in the Moonlight is very light but not as purely funny as most of Allen’s previous films. The comedy is there but very much tied into the characters and themes. He has also perfected the art of filmmaking with beautiful shots, some framed scenes that echo the magic shows of the time, great costume design and a jazz score that fits the conservative but fun tone of the setting of the 1920s.
Best of 2014

Similar Titles:

Midnight in Paris (2011) - Paris and literature taken to golden heights of intelligence and humour.

Blue Jasmine (2013) - Jasmine and Ginger through shady eyes and poisonous hearts.

To Rome with Love (2012) - All of your heart's fantasies played out in Rome with love, celebrities, death and opera.

Fading Gigolo (2013) - A very funny absurdist comedy featuring male prostitution, pimps and Jewish court.