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Chinese conjuror Wei Ling Soo is the most celebrated magician of his age, but few know that he is the stage persona of Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth), a grouchy and arrogant Englishman with a sky-high opinion of himself and an aversion to phony spiritualists’ claims. Persuaded by his friend, Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney), Stanley goes on a mission to the Côte d’Azur mansion of the Catledge family: mother Grace (Jacki Weaver), son Brice (Hamish Linklater), and daughter Caroline (Erica Leerhsen). He presents himself as a businessman named Stanley Taplinger in order to debunk the alluring young clairvoyant Sophie Baker (Emma Stone) who is staying there with her mother (Marcia Gay Harden). Sophie arrived at the Catledge villa at the invitation of Grace, who is convinced that Sophie can help her contact her late husband, and once there, attracted the attention of Brice, who has fallen for her head over heels. What follows is a series of events that are magical in every sense of the word and send the characters reeling. In the end, the biggest trick MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT plays is the one that fools us all. (C) Sony Pictures Classics
Magic in the Moonlight starts off promising and embraces moments of genuine wit, but loses its charm half way through. Usually within a Woody Allen film with there is a great supporting performance. This isn’t the case with Woody Allen’s latest film as I wasn’t a fan of Emma Stone’s performance at all. I felt like Emma was a ‘stand in’ for someone like Scarlett Johansson who’s schedule was just too busy because with Lucy and a few Marvel movies. Colin Firth is both splendid yet adequate in the leading role as magician Stanley. He is the standout performance in the hit or miss ensemble cast where no one is noticeable. No one other than Mr. Firth really caught my attention.
The debate between faith and reason is on full display in Magic in the Moonlight andWoody Allen interjects his character into ‘Stanley’ (played by Firth) who struggles with matters of faith. Stanley (Firth) and Sophie (Stone) are opposed in values and beliefs yet form a strong, mutual relationship with each other. They debate, banter, and often discuss the differences in their believes. Having quality leads is important in the movie and Magic in the Moonlight isn’t up to task. Colin Firth could’ve done better, but at least seemed to enjoy himself.
As a follow up to the Oscar winning Blue Jasmine, Magic in the Moonlight is a letdown, but it is by no means a bad movie nor worth the backlash it is receiving. People are making a deal out of the age difference between Colin Firth and Emma Stone primarily because of Woody Allen’s baggage. I was more bothered with Emma Stone’s acting then the age difference. People need to manage expectations that Woody Allen’s next movie was lighter and less serious from the dark Blue Jasmine. Shifting tone from one movie to the next is okay especially for a talented filmmaker like Woody Allen. Despite the minor flaws, art house savvy adults will help make this a big hit.
I’ll rate Magic in the Moonlight a 6 out of 10.