DVD Review: Magic in the Moonlight

magic-in-the-moonlight-fullA trifle. A likeable bauble. The kind of movie you’re going to get when the writer/director has been pumping out a movie a year since the mid-’60s. Of course, in this case the writer/director is Woody Allen and he can still work his old … magic.

The movie is cut from the same cloth as “Scoop” (2006) and “Midnight in Paris” (2011). Light, uncomplicated romance with an undertone — soon abandoned — of freshman existentialism and pouty Nietzsche. It’s a far cry from last year’s Oscar-winning “Blue Jasmine” and a testament to the vastness of Allen’s imagination.

Thank goodness the cast takes itself seriously because Allen can’t decide whether to entertain us with the story, the vintage autos, the 1920s costumes, the views of the Cote d’Azur or the attractive actors. Colin Firth and Emma Stone get into their roles and engage the audience, then one another as admiring antagonists and, inevitably, something more.

Colin plays the part of Stanley, a world famous illusionist (stage name: Wei Ling Soo) who has been asked to debunk a charming spirit medium, Sophie (Stone), who is all the rage in the south of France. Stanley is perfectly suited for the task. He knows everything there is to know about hocus pocus because that’s how he makes his living. Better yet, he rigorously opposes the notion of a spirit world, the soul or an afterlife. And — maybe connected — he does not believe in love. He’s a prig and he’s not happy.

Sophie is adorable and maybe a little bit of a tease. But when the clairvoyance is upon her, she’s as much in the grip of mystical forces as her customers.

The cast is capably rounded out by Simon McBurney as Stanley’s old pal and fellow magician Howard; Eileen Atkins as Stanley’s wise, old auntie; Marcia Gay Harden as Sophie’s crafty mother and Jacki Weaver (not to be mistaken for the famous Ellsworth American reporter) as Grace Catledge, a wealthy American looking to commune with her late husband.

Stanley’s materialism is gradually undone by Sophie’s astonishing visions. His lack of sentimentality is no match for her delightful prettiness. The cynic is smitten. It’s almost like magic.


Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]

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