"Magic in the Moonlight"
Release Date: Aug. 8, 2014
Running Time: 100 minutes
Woody Allen gets up to his old tricks again with Magic in the Moonlight, a gentle and satisfying comedy that finds the writer/director’s onscreen surrogate contemplating the meaning of love and the possibility of non-existence after death. Set in 1928 in the French Riviera, Colin Firth stars as a master illusionist who is enlisted by a rich American family to unmask Emma Stone’s self-proclaimed spirit medium as a fraud. Unable to amass any evidence against Stone, Firth begins to suspect this delightful young woman is the real deal. It doesn’t help that Stone distracts him with her romantic inclinations. Well, this is a Woody Allen comedy, so it was bound to happen that an older man would finds himself preoccupied with the younger woman who either serves as his muse or challenges his belief system. It’s the latter in Magic in the Moonlight, with the open-minded Stone prompting the pragmatic Firth to question his lack of faith and contention that life ends with death. The humorous conversations between Firth and Stone—as well between Firth and his colleagues and relatives—are light and lively without diminishing the seriousness with which Firth contemplates the prospect of an afterlife, or lack of. Given the film’s hopelessly dreamy setting, Allen slowly sets up the inevitable a May-to-December romance between Firth and Stone. Whereas Stone is delightfully playful, Firth maintains a stern façade for much of Magic in the Moonlight until all the weight of skepticism is lifted from his shoulders. At this point, Firth goes from comically smug and sardonic to genuine and personable. Also, by being the least neurotic of Allen’s stand-ins in recent memory—despite his skeptic being diagnosed as such by a psychiatrist—Firth offers a refreshing take on the prototypical Allen protagonist. While Allen doesn’t break new ground with Magic in the Moonlight, this charming comedy is an improvement over the slight Scoop, which featured Scarlett Johansson’s neophyte journalist attempt to expose Hugh Jackman’s magician as a killer. There’s nothing as nefarious going on in Magic in the Moonlight—unless, of course, you consider damaging someone’s reputation a crime.
Aired: Aug. 7, 2014
Web site: http://www.sonyclassics.com/magicinthemoonlight/