Magic in the Moonlight

Written and Directed by Woody Allen
Starring Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Hamish Linklater and Eileen Atkins
In UK Cinemas September 19th, 2014

by Joanna Orland

Woody Allen has taken a step backwards with his latest film Magic in the Moonlight.  After the critical success of his last two films Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine which both saw the filmmaker producing work reminiscent of his true glory days, Magic in the Moonlight erases the memory of these two successes and taints Allen’s repertoire with this contrite effort.

Colin Firth plays Stanley, a British magician who travels the world with his shows under the guise of a Chinese conjurer named Wei Ling Soo.  Englishman Stanley is arrogant, brash and a rationalist whose side project is exposing fraudulent spiritualists.  Enter Emma Stone’s character Sophie who alongside her mother has paid visit to the wealthy Catledge family to read their minds and contact their deceased patriarch.  Stanley’s longtime magician friend Howard recruits Stanley to help him in exposing Sophie for the fraudster that she is, but both Sophie and Stanley are slightly strayed from this path as love begins to blossom in the most mismatched casting of a couple I’ve ever seen.

Colin Firth is as charming as ever even in his arrogance.  Emma Stone is a good actress with a very pretty face, but her waif-like petite frame and youthfulness makes her appear like a twelve-year old girl in grave need of a sandwich.  Next to Colin Firth, she looks like his young daughter.  In their more intimate scenes such as dancing at the ball, the camera clearly holds the frame in close shot to avoid capturing the platform Stone must be standing on to appear similar in height to Firth.  In long shots, she looks not much taller than his waist.  Their chemistry is flat, their romance forced and creepy as they are more convincingly father daughter than love interests.

The plot is contrived and the couple mismatched, but the style of this film is its enjoyable aspect.  While the characters are reprehensible, they are lovely to look at with a beautiful late 1920’s French Riviera backdrop set to the soundtrack of the era.  This film is most definitely style over substance which is a great disappointment coming from a filmmaker known to be legendary for his substance.

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