Synopsis: A romantic comedy about an Englishman brought in to help unmask a possible swindle. Personal and professional complications ensue.
Stars: Eileen Atkins, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, Simon McBurney, Emma Stone, Jacki Weaver, Erica Leerhsen, Catherine McCormack, Paul Ritter, Jeremy Shamos
Director: Woody Allen
Running Length: 97 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: If Magic in the Moonlight had been made by anyone other than Woody Allen I think I would have scored it lower because ultimately the movie is very simple, inconsequential, light entertainment that once seen quickly evaporates like a summer breeze as you exit the theater. Still, it’s an Allen film through and through so I find myself giving the prolific director a great deal of slack because while it may not be as layered with dramatic nuance as 2013’s Blue Jasmine, it does find the director working comfortably in his element.
The period comedy set in the 20s is as light-hearted as they come, with a plot that feels straight out of a thin paperback novel that itself is part of a larger series of adventures. An English magician (Colin Firth, Devil’s Knot) in Berlin, performing under the un-PC moniker Wei Ling Soo, is tempted to the French Riviera by a colleague (Simon McBurney) to help prove a young psychic (Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) is a fake. The psychic has convinced a wealthy woman (Jacki Weaver, Stoker) of her gifts and caught the eye of her ukulele playing love struck son (Hamish Linklater) while staying at their gossamer villa with her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) and conducting the odd séance in between high tea and scones. Into the mix comes the doubtful magician and before you know it, he too is wrapped up under her spell…but is it all just an elaborate ruse?
Going down like a chilled glass of champagne, Magic in the Moonlight is mostly bubbles, only going flat in the far reaches of its last act when the charm starts to wear off. Explanations always ruin an illusion so the more the characters talk, the less interesting they all become. Still, it takes a while to get to that place so it’s best to put your feet up and let Allen’s comedy wash over you.
As Allen (Radio Days, Fading Gigolo) nears his fiftieth feature film, it’s truly amazing how he’s able to churn out a movie year after year. True, they may not all be winners but he’s moving away from his pattern of having solid gold with every third film. Yes, Magic in the Moonlight lacks the depth of Blue Jasmine but who really cares? The two films couldn’t be more different, just as Blue Jasmine was different from the film that it followed (To Rome With Love). Allen’s filmmaking style is instantly recognizable and goes by the old adage that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it so production design, costumes, and musical cues are all keeping with Allen’s eye for detail.
Already working on her next Allen film set for release in 2015, Stone may be Allen’s new muse (replacing Scarlett Johansson) and her crisp delivery meshes well with Allen’s dialogue. Though her possible romance with Firth seemed a little too May-December for my tastes, the two actors chum it up well in their scenes together, with Firth thankfully unwinding a bit from his more serious roles as of late. As Firth’s aunt, Eileen Atkins (Beautiful Creatures) gets some nice zingers in and seems to be enjoying herself quite a lot.
It’s a bauble of a film that serves as nice counterprogramming for those exhausted from a summer of explosions, aliens, lizards, and transforming robots. Yeah, it’s easily forgotten but it could be just the laid-back kind of entertainment you’re looking for.