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USA 2014
Directed by
Woody Allen
87 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3 stars

Magic In The Moonlight

Synopsis: Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) is a cynical, abrasive and arrogant Englishman who is also a world-renowned magician performing under the name Wei Ling Soo. He is invited by his friend, Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney), to accompany him to the French Riviera where the wealthy Catledge family have hired a young American medium, Sophie Baker, (Emma Stone) to perform séances to put Mrs Catledge (Jackie Weaver) in contact with her dear departed husband. Although everyone seems convinced of Sophie’s powers if anyone can debunk her it will be Stanley. But could Sophie be the real deal?

Set in the 1920s, this film evokes the Roaring Twenties era of cloche hats, double-breasted dinner jackets, smoking suits, flash roadsters, and, of course, endless games of tennis. Magic In The Moonlight has the added ingredient of supernatural, not a stranger thematically to Allen films (most notably in The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion), but while the characteristic Allen wit is evident, this film lacks the zing of his best work.

Acting is solid all round, as would be expected in any Allen film. Colin Firth is, as ever, a powerful (and attractive!) screen presence, almost unrecognisable in his Chinese magician get-up but quintessentially English in his beige flannels. His character traverses a lovely arc from totally obnoxious, through to smitten, born-afresh romantic. His English superiority and cynicism are a lovely foil for the fresh, naïve Sophie, an unaffected American girl with (perhaps) an awesome ability to discern people’s secrets and contact the dead. Sophie’s ambitious mother (Marcia Gay Harden) plays little significant role, but Jackie Weaver shines in her brief moments as Mrs Catledge.  Hamish Linklater is fun as Brice Catledge, the love-struck wealthy son enamoured of Sophie, and Simon McBurney adds a homely touch as Stanley’s long-time friend. Also worth mentioning is a lovely little role by Eileen Atkins as Aunt Vanessa, Stanley’s adviser and mentor.

As always with Allen production values hit the mark in terms of period feel, costuming and sets. Fitting musical choices augment the jaunty 20s flapper feel, and Brice’s endless serenading of Sophie with ukulele-accompanied songs is a cute addition. Firth and Stone don’t seem to generate a credible amount of chemistry together as yet again Allen falls for his perpetual self-delusion concerning the appeal of  an older man to a young women. And when the denouement comes, it seems to all happen in a click of the fingers  - sudden, and again, lacking persuasiveness.

Whilst Magic In The Moonlight is lightweight and one of Woody’s less memorable films, it is engaging and amusing in places and, particularly if you’re a Firth or Allen fan, it has its charms.




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