But unlike in ‘The Prestige’ or ‘The Illusionist’ we’re not asked to wonder at stage acts. Instead our perspective is that of mother-and-daughter tricksters Mary (Catherine Zeta Jones) and Benji McGarvie (Saoirse Ronan), who scrape a living by appearing to have psychic powers and spot an opportunity when Houdini (Guy Pearce) arrives in town offering a reward to anyone who can channel his mother’s last words. And so we’re treated to Houdini’s multiple hang-ups with his mother, fame and intimacy.
None of the cast shine, although Ronan shows promise after ‘Atonement’ and Timothy Spall is passable as Houdini’s manager. Pearce never makes his Houdini seem anything more than a little troubled and Zeta Jones’s flat foil doesn’t help matters. All in all, it’s a bit of a snore that falls back on romance when all else fails.