Review: Magic in the Moonlight (2014, Woody Allen)

DSCF9550.RAFWoody Allen, the genius that he is, has made both brilliantly good and tediously bad movies in the past forty years or so. However, his “legendary” status is not effected by the quality of work he produces year after year. In all honestly, I was a bit hesitant to the fact that Mr. Allen has found himself a new muse in Emma Stone to follow the footsteps of the great Diane Keaton, the wonderful Mia Farrow, the hilarious Diane Wiest and his latest and serviceable muse Scarlet Johansson. To my surprise, Emma Stone fits perfectly into the world of Woody Allen’s romanticised, upper class world of deceit and mystery that it was hard not to enjoy Magic in the Moonlight. 

Set in Europe during Woody Allen’s favourite period piece era, the 1920s, we are introduced to the stiff, proud and cynical magician Stanley (Colin Firth), who hides behind oriental makeup during his performances. Quickly into the plot, we find Stanley making his way to the South of France to the home of a wealthy American family who has seeked for his help to unmask a young girl named Sophie (Emma Stone). This girlhas captured the heart of the young family heir posing as a medium who can communicate with the dead and read everybody’s pasts and futures. As somebody who is always right, Stanley begins to question his talents when Sophie begins to show him that she is the real deal. He quickly begins to become smitten by the young American’s powers.

Though Magic in the Moonlight is far from Allen’s best work (last year’s Blue Jasmine was so incredibly strong, and probably my favourite of his more modern films), the film is still reasonably entertaining with great dialogue and a fun cast. Also, Moonlight stands as one of his more beautifully crafted films with fine cinematography and great period pieces that makes the era come to life.

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Emma Stone as the young Sophie shines the best amongst the ensemble cast. She is almost luminous in this role. This is no surprise, because we all know that Mr. Allen likes to work closely with his ingenue’s and the result is that they almost, always deliver. Though Cate Blanchett would have been a better fit to become Woody’s next film obsession, Stone surprised me and her big-eyed comedic timing is perfect for the role of the enchanting and yet mysterious young medium that seems to capture everybody’s attention. Colin Firth, who we’ve seen play the stiff type almost every time, never fails to have us eating at the palm of his hands despite playing the same thing over and over again.

Surprisingly enough, Woody Allen’s supporting ladies (who usually are just as brilliant as the lead stars of his pictures) were definitely more subtle this time around. It makes me wonder why he’d cast such talents like Jacki Weaver (a recent queen of the “supporting role” type performances) and Oscar winning Marcia Gay Harden in roles that won’t even make a dent on their filmographies. It’s really Eileen Atkins, who plays Firth’s tough loving Aunt Vanessa, that gets the surprisingly good dialogue. I say this because though Atkins was tremendous in her little performance, I’d expect Allen to go crazy with the roles of Harden’s greedy mother and Weaver’s disillusioned heiress. They seem like those typical supporting performances that Diane Wiest would play in her Woody Allen heydays and knock it out of the park. And yet, they were nothing roles. I guess I just expected much more since Moonlight was indeed a straight up romantic comedy and Allen usually flourishes with characters in these types of films.

Overall, as a film lover, you can’t help but continue to be happy that Woody Allen produces a film every single year since he started getting respect in the business. It’s always something I look forward to. Though Magic in the Moonlight isn’t exactly a masterpiece, it’s a great way to kick off his partnership with Stone (who we’ll be seeing in another Woody Allen film next year) and it gives us something to expect between their chemistry as filmmaker and actress. I do hope however that his picture next year is a little bit closer to Blue Jasmine quality then this, because though it is in fact entertaining it is also a little bit unmemorable when looking at his career in retrospective.

RATING: 7/10

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