Recently, I have been catching up on all the works of Woody Allen‘s and while he often makes “just okay” films and a handful of great ones, I always find myself enjoying what I watch. The movie may not be the best, but the dialogue and characters often win me over and I have a good time with it all. Plus, it helps when the films take place somewhere scenic and the cities act as their own characters. Allen is always one to contemplate life and death and his characters are all a piece of him, but more recently I’ve enjoyed what Woody has been up to and his latest venture back to France has yet again captivated me.
In a world of mystery and deception, the magical Wei Ling Soo puts on the most impressive stunts of magic that couldn’t possibly be real. He’s deceived everyone who has come to his show and he’s also renowned for his unveiling of fake spiritualists that hustle money from the rich. While he’s not performing as an Asian Magician, Wei Ling Soo is known as Stanley (Colin Firth) and one day his magician friend Howard (Simon McBurney) comes by after a show with a proposition. A family in the South of France is being deceived by a young women claiming to be a spiritualist, but Howard just can’t figure out how she’s doing it. He asks for Stanley’s help and the two head down to the Côte d’Azur.
Once in France, Stanley meets Grace (Jacki Weaver), the woman of the house who’s completely enamored by the spiritualist and her ability to connect with Grace’s departed husband. Brice, her son, is completely captivated by the young, clairvoyant woman and often attempts to woo her, seeing no fault in her work. Stanley doesn’t believe any of this, but has second thoughts when he meets the lovely Sophie (Emma Stone) who tells him things that she couldn’t possibly know. Thus begins many days of trial and error, as Stanley attempts to unveil her for the fraud he thinks he is. Described as a misanthrope by Sophie and his Aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins), Stanley has grim views of the world that perhaps begin to change as he slowly falls for Sophie. Is it magic?
Magic in the Moonlight takes us to the ever-charming Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) for a splendid time full of mystery, romance, and immense laughter. The smartly written script will leave you befuddled from time-to-time, at how a man nearing 80 can still write better than the newest writers in the business. More than that, this joy of a film will leave a lasting smile on your face, as you yearn for a bit more time with the characters and that French Countryside that seems to bring out the best in people.
Collin Firth is as good in this film as Cate Blanchett was in last year’s Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen’s film that won her the Academy Award for Best Female Performance in a Lead Role). Despite the wonderful French setting, Firth is anything but elegant, as he spits fire with his big words. A disbeliever of things spiritual and divine, Firth is very witty with his remarks and comebacks, yet he possess a subtle curiosity about there being more in the universe that brings life to his character in times of darkness. Firth’s neurotic nature brings even more magic in this film that questions how everything in our universe really works.
Emma Stone finds herself in a good place in life right now, as she’s signed on to Allen’s next project as well. Here, she plays the trickster in a cute and touching manner, as she’s always contemplative of her actions and the effects that she has on others. Her charm is immeasurable and she’s the perfect antithesis to Firth’s character. Also turning in great performances are McBurney and Atkins, who challenge Firth’s beliefs the whole way through. Hamish Linklater elicits many laughs as he fawns for Stone and Jacki Weaver provides many heartwarming moments. All in all, the supporting cast for this film is amazing and they all serve a purpose, which is always a bonus.
As he does with nearly all of his films, Woody Allen contemplates our universe and discusses the possibility of there being something more after we die. He’s confident that death is all there is, but he’s open to the thought of there being more and that’s reflective in Firth’s character, who seems to be slightly empty due to his lack of belief. Allen’s script is sharp and smart, as his story manages to capture your own beliefs and put them into question too. I don’t know how he does it, but Allen manages to keep coming up with the best dialogue you’ll hear and he’ll also make “misanthrope” your new favorite word.
Did I mention that this movie takes place in the South of France? Woody Allen has a habit of creating fun films in foreign countries and though this film is drastically more different than Midnight In Paris, there are many similar elements that get me smiling from ear to ear. The Jazz score and French Cabaret music had me tapping my feet as soon as the title sequence started and the breathtaking views of the countryside had me swooning in my seat. The costume design is exquisite and the set design will have you wishing that you could jump right into the film. Talk about a captivating film!
Magic in the Moonlight is just more proof that Woody Allen is a talented writer and director, who also knows how to get the most out of his cast. Usually, Allen switches from hit-to-miss with his films, but he’s proved here that the cycle can be broken and that filming in France does pay off. Colin Firth is spectacular and Emma Stone works her magic, though her character could have benefited from a bit more time on-screen. We don’t get much of an arc from her, but that still wouldn’t have changed that fact that this is Firth’s show and he certainly took the reigns and never let go. Magic in the Moonlight is a mesmerizing film that fits in quite well among the rest of Allen’s good films! Many may disagree with me and I can understand that, but I personally found this film delightful and its magic worked wonders on me. Hopefully it’ll do the same for you too.
Magic in the Moonlight Trailer