If you were to simply evaluate Woody Allen’s (Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris) latest film upon the criteria of it being a good romantic comedy or not then you would probably give it an F. Because it is more than just a romantic comedy and what I mean by that is that Colin Firth due to his talent makes it better than it is.
The setting is Europe in the 1920s where haughty, diva-like Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth – The King’s Speech, Love Actually) works incognito in costume as illusionist Wei Ling Soo. He is rather famous. Also rather difficult in that he thinks he is perfect and most other humans are imbeciles. In his time off the stage he spends some of his time revealing frauds – people who are posing as mediums who have contact with the spirit world. When his friend and fellow magician Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney – The Last King of Scotland, Body of Lies) approaches him with an offer to help divulge a young female medium as a fake he jumps (in his very reserved way) at the opportunity.
In the south of France, Stanley and Howard arrive at the Catledge estate. They are there to disprove that young American Sophie Baker (Emma Stone – The Help, The Amazing Spider-Man) can actually communicate with dead folks. Sophie has conducted séances in which she reportedly communes with Mrs. Catledge’s (Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook, The Five-Year Engagement) dead husband. While she is doing this long distance talking she has managed to capture the eye and heart of Mrs. Catledge’s son, Brice (Hamish Linklater – Fantastic Four, Battleship). Brice has proposed to Sophie. She is about to become a wealthy woman.
Plenty of questions arise out of this short time in the south of France. Will Sophie marry Brice? Is Sophie truly a medium? Has Stanley fallen for Sophie? Stay tuned for all the answers.
The love affair he has been having over the last decade or so with Europe continues in this his latest. Just like he depicted his beloved New York City in film, the southern countryside of France looks gorgeous in Magic in the Moonlight. Shot largely at a regal estate and with other scenes along the coast, it is one scenic garden and landscape after another. A treat for the eyes constructed by cinematographer Darius Khondji.
All the witty and dry dialogue that Woody Allen has built his long and prosperous career upon is there as you would expect. He even tries to not be so transparent in the construction of a romantic comedy, but if you are surprised by anything that happens in this film then you are not paying attention.
Oddly enough Allen suffers through a misstep in his writing and lack of fleshing out of the character of the young ingénue, Sophie. She seems a little too phony from the get go and not all that can be blamed on the acting of Emma Stone. Miss Stone was not given that much to work with despite the fact that hers is an important character. Allen also seems to have painted himself into a corner in regards to the character and is not sure how to get out of it so he just allows Sophie to remain there.
The opposite is true for Colin Firth with his character. There is plenty for him to do and impress us with. He truly carries the picture on his shoulders. It doesn’t seem like a burden for him as he does it with such ease that you barely even notice. While Sophie seems to have less and less substance about her at the same time you want to find out more and more about that devil Stanley.
-Behind the Magic
-On the Red Carpet: Los Angeles Film Premiere