Magic in the Moonlight

  • Film
  • Comedy
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The more things change, the more Woody Allen stays the same: it’s a comfort that this singular artist’s worldview remains so staunchly his own – often archaically against fashion – and that nothing seems to halt his movie-a-year pace. The director’s latest – a lighthearted romance set in 1920s Germany and France – won’t do much to sway proponents or detractors from their own perspectives, though taken at face value, it’s one of Allen’s most charmingly conceived and performed efforts.

Our hero, Stanley (Colin Firth, amusingly pompous), is a popular stage magician and lifetime sceptic conscripted by a colleague to travel to a lush Côte d’Azur estate. His task is to debunk a self-proclaimed psychic named Sophie (Emma Stone, strong-willed and alluring), who appears to be milking a rich old widow out of every cent. Yet try as Stanley might, he’s unable to uncover her trickery, and with each new 'miracle' she performs, he falls deeper and deeper in love.

It’s a simple premise that Allen complicates with an illusionist’s expertise. If the essence of magic is a steady stream of pleasurable distraction until the mind-bending big reveal, then the sun-dappled French vistas – gorgeously photographed by cinematographer Darius Khondji – and a very able and attractive cast decked out in Jazz Age finery more than do the job. Firth and Stone’s head-butting exchanges may be the general focus, but there are plum supporting roles for Hamish Linklater as a ukulele-strumming suitor and Eileen Atkins as Stanley’s aunt, always ready with a wizened, world-weary observation.

None of this is to take away from Allen’s cleverly constructed script. It feels as if it could have been written in the heyday of Old Hollywood – a blithe lark that digs deep at the most unexpected times, as in a terrific scene in which agnostic Stanley dithers his way through a prayer. Allen’s never going to be Ernst Lubitsch, and there’s a bit of his latter-day laziness on display. (Few directors are as fond of one-and-done master shots that seem envisioned by a loafer longing for the five o’clock whistle.) Yet 'Magic in the Moonlight' still casts a lovely, lingering spell.

Release details

Release date: Friday September 19 2014
Duration: 97 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Woody Allen
Screenwriter: Woody Allen
Cast: Emma Stone
Colin Firth
Eileen Atkins
Hamish Linklater
Marcia Gay Harden
Jacki Weaver
Simon McBurney

Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|4
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Anastazja O
1 of 1 found helpful

This sweet, featherweight comedy might not be a remarkable one, and it certainly won't go down in history as one of Woody Allen's greatest achievements. However, ditch the overblown expectations and you are left with a charming, thoroughly enjoyable film. The uncharacteristic optimism, subtle humour, first-rate cast and stunning 1920s costumes that put The Great Gatsby to shame make for 100 minutes of pure, feel-good entertainment. 

critique _

Disposable, featherweight romantic comedy, hindered by an OTT performance from Firth. Two and a half stars.

Paul C

Yes, a featherweight story indeed Anastazja, lovely grown-up script and battle of head over heart. Almost felt at times like made for tv, but a good period yarn to while away the evening. Woody makes it look easy and look forward to his next. 

David G

Very old fashioned and very charming film.It plot is surprisingly good with a decent ending.Allen's mixing of Anglo/American actors pays dividends.The bright light,the sea,the costumes all play their part.Don't expect to see any sex,violence swearing or special effects.l did think that Firth,overcooked his part (or hammed it up to much) His mother was brilliant and Emma Stone highly watchable with her cute features.The dance seen at the mansion party with the Californian Ramblers playing Sweet Georgia Brown is one of the best ever scenes to evoke the 1920s era.Fun and oozes charm