This 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.
Running Time: 97 minutes.