(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)
by Daniel Quitério
Exotic locations. Defined characters. Sharp wit. It’s what you come to expect from the venerable, and oh so prolific Woody Allen. And it’s what you’ll come to find in his latest offering, Magic in the Moonlight. In short, if you hate Woody Allen, you’ll hate this film. But on the other hand, if you love this cinematic mastermind, you’ll be as enamored and enchanted by Magic as this reviewer was.
In recent years, Allen has transported his audiences to San Francisco, Rome, Paris, New York, Barcelona, and London—each city boasting its best qualities on screen. This time, the 1920s French Riviera takes its place in Allen’s filmography, with no shortage of Mediterranean landscapes and opulent homes to ooh and aah at.
As the film opens, we’re introduced to the mesmerizing Wei Ling Soo, performing his unique brand of magic before an inspired German audience. He is the first mystical persona we encounter in the film, but not all is as it seems, as this mysterious man of the Orient is, in fact, a Brit named Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth). He takes pride in his ability to conceive and execute elaborate tricks, but perhaps more so in his aptitude for uncovering the mystery behind others’ illusions. So it makes sense that Crawford’s close confidante Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 2011) would come to him with a challenge: debunk the young woman who’s convinced the wealthy Catledge family that she’s a spiritual medium. Believing it won’t take long to discredit the convincing Sophie (Emma Stone), Crawford travels to the South of France, where the Catledges keep their villa at which Sophie and her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) are invited guests. Following a series of surprising revelations, the magician comes to question whether the clairvoyant is the real deal.
Magic in the Moonlight is not the only film in theatres that pits the tangible against the unexplained. Mike Cahill’s deeply introspective (and fantastic) I Origins forces audiences to question the existence of God and the unexplainable, despite the hard data to prove it. There are clear parallels between both films, though Magic explores its hypothesis with a lesser sense of importance, as well as the intellectual humor that is so characteristic of Allen’s films. The latter quality is explored in the various scenes between the equally competent Firth and Stone, whose chemistry is undeniable, though neither actor offers his or her best performance in this picture. Firth is superb at channeling a Henry Higgins-esque gruffness that dares audiences to love him, despite his rough edges. Stone does a convincing job of convincing audiences in her character’s mystic abilities. With audiences uncertain of her validity, Crawford certainly has a difficult job on his hands. The cast is rounded out with exceptional performances by Eileen Atkins, Hamish Linklater, and Jacki Weaver.
The cars. The costumes. The jazz. For 97 minutes, Allen transports us to delicious 1920s France for a summer vacation from our current place and time. As if that weren’t enough, this trip is made especially memorable by the exotic location, the defined characters, and the sharp wit. And a hint of magic.
Limité Rating: 4/5
Director: Woody Allen
Screenwriter: Woody Allen
Cast: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Hamish Linklater, Jacki Weaver, Marcia Gay Harden, Eileen Atkins, Simon McBurney.
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
TRT: 97 min.
Release: July 25[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fkk0wXDMfc]