Magic in the Moonlight– Review by Frank L.
Written and Directed by Woody Allen
Stars: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden
Stanley (Colin Firth) is an illusionist, who in the opening scene makes an elephant disappear in a Berlin Cabaret. He is English to the core but to his adoring public he is a Chinese illusionist, Wah Lei Soo. His old friend and rival illusionist Howard (Sam McBurney) needs his help expose an American medium Sophie (Emma Stone) (who hails from Kalamazoo) who has inveigled herself deep into the affections of a recently widowed zillionaire, a Mrs.Catledge, who lives in luxurious splendour on the Cote d’Azur with her ukulele playing ineffectual son who is smitten by Sophie. Howard needs Stanley to unmask Emma for the fraud that she is and save the Catledge family from ruin. Stanley travels to the Cote d’Azur where handily his aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins) also happens to live. Stanley is an arch realist and has no time for the supernatural and makes this quite clear on several occasions as he interfaces with Emma who quite often slips into a trance. However she is good looking and as Stanley’s fiancée is on holiday in the faraway Galapagos Islands he gradually becomes bewitched by Sophie notwithstanding her supernatural beliefs. The plot creeks forward with a double cross, glamourous parties, a thunder and lightning storm and so on.
Notwithstanding the fine quality of the acting from Firth, McBurney and Atkins, the script they had to enliven was without panache. One of Firth’s great roles was as Mr.Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. That novel contains the most unlikely marriage proposal ever uttered, Jane Austen at her most skilled. Unfortunately for Firth, Woody Allen is not in the same league as Jane Austen when it comes to writing proposals of marriage and there was nothing Firth could do to save this leaden scene.
What is splendid are the vintage cars and the stylish twenties clothes all the principals wear. The Cote d’Azur looks a complete idyll for the very rich. However that and the acting of Firth, McBurney and Atkins are not enough. Nowhere is any magic to be encountered.
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