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Magic In The Moonlight – Review


Release Date: 15 August 2014 [USA]
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Cast: Colin Firth - Emma Stone - Marcia Gay Harden - Antonia Clarke



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Posted October 26, 2014 by

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Magic In The Moonlight Review:

I have been amazed to realize that, since “Husband and Wives” in 1992, Woody Allen has directed one movie a year. It feels controversial : how can someone can stay creative, self-critical, original even, with writing and directing that amount of features ?

It was with such a state of mind that I went to see his latest film : “Magic in the Moonlight”. I found myself not liking Woody Allen as a “Man” per say, but I have to acknowledge the fact that he has a true talent in writing and directing, like we all could have seen it with “Match Point” (2005), or “Midnight in Paris” (2011) : those two remain my favorites. I was hoping to be cast under a new spell of his, but the magic didn’t work completely out.

The story takes place in the late 1920s. Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney, from “Body of Lies”, “The Last King of Scotland”), a magician, is a guest in the Catledge domain in Provence, the exotic countryside of the French Riviera. The Catledges are a wealthy family, who grew found of Sophie Baker’s talents : Sophie (Emma Stone, from “The amazing Spiderman”, “Zombieland”, “Crazy, Stupid, Love”) proves herself to be a medium, with a divination gift that amaze the whole family and their guests. Howard was supposed to trick her and expose her as a fraud. Unable to do so, he seeks help of his old friend Stanley (Colin Firth, from “A single Man”, “Bridget Jone’s Diary”, “The King’s Speech”), also a magician, who happen to be as gifted to lampoon the fake mediums as Sophie seems to be in her field.

Intrigued and eager to meet the woman, Stanley agrees, posing as an import-export business-man, and using the pretext of visiting his aunt (Eileen Atkins) also residing in Provence. Unfortunately for him, Sophie is able to see through him : he is a magician, travelling a lot, raised by his aunt to be a very gloomy, cynical, rational person.

Since Sophie happen to be quite good-looking, among all of her talents, it didn’t take long for Brice, the heir of the Catledge wealth, to fall stupid in love with her : stupid enough to write and sing her serenades along with a ukulele (yes, that is stupid, even in 1928), and eventually propose to her : he swears to take care of her, and finance a medium foundation that would be headed by her and her mother (the very discrete Marcia Gay Harden). The coincidence is too obvious for Stanley but he can’t help himself finding no evidence of the hoax. But, when he decides to confront Sophie with his aunt, Sophie senses the sadness of the woman, hurt by an impossible love affair she had when she was younger : Stanley knew, but he never spoke of it to Sophie ! He’s now convinced, she’s the medium she claims to be, and deserves all the praises.

Stunned by his life spent in disbelief and coldness, he finally begin to enjoy life for what it is and the mysteries of the unseen. Of course, his feelings for Sophie grow along his discovery of the simple pleasures of life. However, as the gentleman that he is, he represses these feelings, Sophie being close to be engaged to Brice Catledge.

I purposely won’t detail any further the story and focus on the pros and cons of the feature. It is a bummer, for example, that a gifted writer that Woody Allen is chose such a cliché that is a love story, when the dialogues are truly a delight : it is quite the same thing as a magnificent painting, framed with a cardboard… and some lines are truly worth the trip, especially when Stanley tries to repress his feeling towards Sophie.

The general frame is actually a pure Woody Allen product : no surprises in the editing process, neither in the way that the sequences of the film are directed, nor their length. The Golden Twenties, however, where a tremendous choice concerning the music : a lot of “hot music” as they put it in the film, with a punctuation of more classical music for dramatic purposes. The whole thing works as perfection, even if I’m a bit disappointed that all these classical pieces where “stolen” from Kubric’s features.

The performances are honest, refreshing, Emma Stone is truly a delight for the eyes and show her ability to be a good actress in any subject she lays hands onto, even though she doesn’t yet have the glamour and coolness Scarlett Johansson had back in 2005. The rest of the cast does the job quite nicely but there’s not a real capital gain here.

The film is worth it if you are a Woody Allen aficionado, or madly-stupidly-ready-to-sing-serenades in love with Emma Stone. Otherwise, don’t expect much than a light romantic comedy, more likely to make you smile than make you laugh.


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Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 15.21.38

Theo Tessa
Freelance Contributor


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