MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT | MOVIE REVIEW

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT is the latest annual film from Woody Allen, this one stars Colin Firth and Emma Stone, you could do much worse in a cast. All I can say is that while editing Kernel Andrew’s review for this one I have just fallen in love with the cinematography and will be off to see it purely for that. That being said I am confuddled at the poster, the second I saw it and every other time I have seen it I have both giggled and squirmed at it. It has already been voted the worst movie poster of 2014, god knows why, when the visuals of this film are so spectacular, they settled on this final artwork – there must be some kind of “in-joke.” MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT is being released by our good friends at eOneANZ this Thursday 28th August 2014. It runs for 97mins and is rated PG. Enjoy Kernel Andrew’s review…….all the best……..JK.

 

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | THE WORST POSTER OF 2014

 

REVIEW BY ANDREW BRUSENTSEV

You have to give Woody Allen one thing. The man is a prolific filmmaker who I think long ago gave up on critical admiration for his cinematic practice. That being said he is a filmmaker who is adored by critics and fans……some of the time. From MATCH POINT, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and BLUE JASMINE to the hey days of MANHATTAN, ANNIE HALL and the golden period of the late 70’s and early 80’s. The man is a machine when it comes to pumping out movies. He is like clockwork since about 1983 and has produced close to a movie a year.

So is MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT a movie that critics and audiences will enjoy? I think judging by current reactions this will be one that divides people. Don’t get me wrong there is much to love about MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT. It has a solid cast, the premise is sound and the settings and costuming are absolutely divine. But still I was left with a nagging feeling that something was missing in this picture. If you have never liked Allen’s default shtick of sophisticated, dialogue driven, neurosis-laden romantic comedy you are not going to fall for it this time.

 

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | SOPHIE (EMMA STONE) WORKING HER MAGIC MOVIE IMAGE
MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | SOPHIE (EMMA STONE) WORKING HER MAGIC

 

Once again the movie is a period piece set in the late 1920’s. Perhaps because of Allen’s well documented love of this period of jazz music it is a trope he has returned to time and time again.

The premise has its charms. Celebrated stage magician Stanley (Colin Firth) is our protagonist. He is a man who has built his career impersonating a Chinese illusionist – Woo Ling Soo. In his spare time off the stage he is also a strict materialist and has made a career of debunking the “fraud of spiritualism”. After a show in Munich he is enlisted by an old friend Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney) to debunk perhaps his greatest challenge: A mother and daughter double act currently “hoodwinking” a nouve riche American family residing in Provence in the south of France.

It is here that he meets Sophie (Emma Stone) who utterly disarms him both with her looks, personality, as well as her seemingly otherworldly powers. Upon discovering that he cannot, in fact, find any mechanical trickery or other sham stuff in her routine, he is perplexed. He begins slowly to believe her claims and in the process begins to change emotionally, especially with his dealings with those around him (he is a bit of pompous stick in the mud). Will this gratitude also translate into romantic feelings for her?

 

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | SOPHIE (EMMA STONE) WORKING HER MAGIC MOVIE IMAGE
MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | STANLEY (COLIN FIRTH) AND SOPHIE (EMMA STONE) SWIMMING

 

This is standard fair in a way for Allen. It is not the first time that Allen has explored the differences between rationality and irrationality, the battles between atheism and belief. In fact Allen has some of the funniest jokes on atheism I have ever heard. Point in fact as a massive Allen fan much of his movies tip toe on this precise theme. Although he is connecting the dots on matters he has underlined many times, this is not the problem I think.

It may be that MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT tends to grow a little diffuse and floppy during the middle act. The dialogue and character interaction so key to Allen movies seems to fall apart. Also around this time it seems to hesitate in its treatment of any romance between Stanley and Sophie.

 

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT MOVIE IMAGE
MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MRS BAKER (MARICA GAY HARDEN), BRICE (HAMISH LINKLATER), STANLEY (COLIN FIRTH) AND SOPHIE (EMMA STONE) SOCIALISE ON THE LAWN

 

But it is not problem of performance between the two. Colin Firth delivers a strong and unfussy performance. He is the “pompous straight man” of the piece and Emma Stone is also solid playing back against this. Eileen Atkins, who plays Stanley’s predictably wise Aunt Vanessa is fantastic and works well in the ensemble. Hamish Linklater, as Sophie’s moony suitor Brice (the rich heir of the American family), is fine but appears to be in it as an afterthought. Jacki Weaver, playing Brice’s rich widowed mother Grace is also passable but I did expect a little more from her (she is such a superb actress).

It is not a problem with setting (the simply gorgeous landscape of Provence) camera work (passable work by Darius Khondji) or costuming (immaculate work by Colleen Morris) which as you would expect of an Allen period piece are spot on. It is not the dialogue crafted by a true master of the word in Allen. But there is something there though that is missing. I am just not sure if I can put my finger on it.

Perhaps after viewing it you can let me know?

It is an enjoyable addition into Allen’s vast body of work. It is not at the top or at the bottom but somewhere in the middle just where I can’t put my finger on it.

 

3 Pops