0387 | Magic In The Moonlight

magicinthemoonlight1This Woody Allen rom-com slipped out while I was on holiday in 2014 (you blink and you miss ’em these days) and can best be described as Allen-by-numbers, by which I mean that committed fans will enjoy it while being aware throughout that he can do better: typically there’s plenty of attention paid to period detail and its characters share a few droll exchanges, but it’s probably for the best if your expectations are low. Emma Stone appears to be Allen’s young actress of choice these days, and here she plays an American medium, who may or may not be genuinely gifted; opposite her is Colin Firth’s stuffy English illusionist, a man who prides himself in his ability to expose fake spirit guides (the joke being that he performs on stage in an unlikely guise as a Chinese man by the name of Wei Ling Soo).

Much of it is par-for-the-course, especially with regard to Allen’s late period European love affair: the characters are resolutely upper class; it features a young American abroad; the tone is light and frothy; marriages (both existing and potential) amicably dissolve at the drop of a hat when an older man (Firth standing in for Allen) falls in love with a younger woman; the setting (the south of France) certainly looks great but is once again a one-eyed vision of Europe that eventually seems as dull as a travel brochure; and there are virtually no local people in the story (a couple of people who speak zee Franglais wiz zee French accentz aside). Still, if you can stifle the yawns there are things to enjoy: Firth and Stone share some chemistry and raise a couple of laughs during one witty scene heavy in phallic symbolism set in an observatory; and when Allen really loves his leading lady, as is the case here, he and his cinematographer (the reliably excellent Darius Khondji) certainly pull out all the stops in order to make her look good. The supporting characters, an underwritten mixture of foppish twits and wily old beans, are almost instantly forgettable, which is a shame considering the presence of excellent actors like Marcia Gay Harden and Jacki Weaver, but Firth is obviously adept at playing English toffs and he and Stone manage to carry Magic In The Moonlight over the finishing line. Not bad, but often more tiresome than it is funny.

Directed by: Woody Allen.
Written by: Woody Allen.
Starring: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Hamish Linklater, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Erica Leehrsen, Eileen Atkins, Simon McBurney.
Cinematography: Darius Khondji.
Editing: Alisa Lepselter.
Music: Various.
Running Time:
97 minutes.

Comments 15

  1. Cindy Bruchman October 24, 2015

    Ah, you beat me. This one slipped by me, too, and I was going to watch it and review it. I’m not much a fan of Emma Stone but enjoy Firth. I’m glad you beat me and now I can skip this film from the queue. 😉

    • Stu October 24, 2015

      Please don’t let my review stop you from watching it! It’s not bad, it’s just very much standard Woody Allen. Not one of his better ones. I’m the other way round to you…I’ve been impressed by the little I’ve seen of Stone whereas Firth I can take or leave. I’ve seen him deliver a couple of excellent performances though, admittedly!

  2. Three Rows Back October 25, 2015

    Allen has never had any problem attracting great talent; it’s just a shame he’s largely coasting these days and not giving them enough to work with. I love Allen but he’s dropped the ball a lot hasn’t he?

  3. Todd Benefiel November 1, 2015

    And speaking of stifling a yawn…a fell asleep in the theater during this one, and missed the ending! For me, Allen is hit or miss these days…like two misses for every one hit. I just have to figure out the pattern so I won’t waste free passes. Otherwise, I agree with your assessment…and I’ll definitely bypass ‘To Rome with Love’!

    • Stu November 1, 2015

      I agree, but then I also think Allen’s misses are better than most directors’ misses! But To Rome With Love is absolutely one of my least favourites of his…don’t bother with it.

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