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Magic in the Moonlight: Hope for the Misanthrope
Magic in the Moonlight is the Woody Allen film you haven’t heard of, but everyone should know. In this delightful tale of optimist meets pessimist, Emma Stone and Colin Firth make their film debut together in the 1920s south of France. This charming film, written and directed by Woody Allen, is an all around feel good movie that will have you giggling throughout. Magic in the Moonlight reminds us that even though magic wands, unicorns and talking to the dead cannot be real, we can still find magic all around us.
Let's set the scene. Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) is a world-renowned magician who goes by the name of Wei Ling Soo. After a performance in Berlin, we find him to be a grouchy, egotistical pessimist. Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney), one of Stanley’s only friends in the world and fellow magician, surprises him backstage. Howard requests Stanley’s help with debunking a phony spiritualist who is conning his wealthy friend Grace (Jacki Weaver) and her son Brice (Hamish Linklater), who has fallen in love with Sophie. Stanley, quite confident in his debunking abilities, obliges. They travel to the south of France, where Stanley meets Sophie Baker (Emma Stone) for the first time. Right off the bat Sophie has visions about Stanley, telling him information that she could not possibly know. He remains unconvinced. A short time goes by where he will not give into the ‘foolish idea’ of an afterlife; he only believes in what he can see with his own eyes. However, after Sophie gives a reading to his aunt, a woman Sophie has never met before, Stanley breaks free of his pessimistic chains. More time goes by and it is clear that Sophie’s romantic feelings towards Stanley are bringing out a conscience in her…
I have heard some complaints that the film is too fluffy, too silly, too light, but is that not the point? Magic in the Moonlight is a little silly, and most definitely is a tad fluffy, but why should that be a negative? It is obvious that the creators were not afraid of having a little fun. It is most refreshing to watch a film that has a positive view of the world, where you can simply sit and enjoy the story instead of the story inflicting gloom and despair, making the world seem like an evil place. Just because a film does not end in death and heartbreak should not mean that it is any less a good story.
The story revolves around the idea that knowing everything is not only impossible, but ridiculous. We can never know everything, and sometimes the magic we find in life comes from what we do not understand. Although “ignorance is bliss” is one of my most loathsome sayings, regarding some aspects of life, it can be quite accurate. For example, in the film, Grace is a wealthy widow. Sophie performs a séance where the group speaks to Grace’s deceased husband. She asks him if he had been faithful to her while they had been together because some say he had had an affair with a neighbor. A sign answers that he had always been faithful to her. We of course cannot know for sure, seeing that his spirit did not truly answer. However, the comfort Grace felt from that white lie means a lot more than confessing that the husband’s answer was really a knock on the wall provided by someone in the room. Logic and reason do not always have to rule over decency and poetry.
Not only is the story fun, but the mise-en-scène is exciting to behold. I found myself in awe of every dress, suit, headband and shoe that I observed. (And no one wears a suit better than Colin Firth…) The attention to detail made the experience more genuine, and added to the overall beauty of the image. Props to the prop master!
Props should also be given to Colin Firth. As usual, I cannot find a single flaw in his performance. He is a master of his craft, and brings charm and wit to Stanley’s character. Often I found myself laughing out loud at Stanley’s awkward demeanor and constant stubborn attitude. He brings depth to a character that a less experienced actor could have played quite flat. It is safe to say that Colin Firth has been perfectly cast.
That being said, I have two small qualms I must mention. The first issue I have is with my favorite actress, Emma Stone. Stone is her usual charming, adorable, quirky self, but that is the issue. I find that her performance is slightly too modern at times, making me think, ‘how cute is Emma Stone in that 1920s costume,’ rather than, ‘that Sophie is a clever little thing.’ I would not by any means say her performance is poor, just possibly not in the right era. My second issue is with the love story. I get it. Pessimist finds love with the optimist who opens his eyes to the beauty of life. However, my issue is with the ages. Sophie is in her mid 20s. Stanley is in his 50s. That may have been a common pairing in that time period, but a modern audience is watching. Both actors are exceptional, I am just not convinced they should be romantically paired.
In a summer full of ninja turtles, mutant raccoons and giant talking apes, this film proves to be the refreshing change we have been looking for. Firth and Stone’s chemistry is palpable and the constant ups and downs will have you laughing throughout. Magic in the Moonlight is certainly a film that all can relate to in some small way. You may not have heard a lot about it prior to its release, but I hope this review is enough to convince you to go to the theater. Magic in the Moonlight is guaranteed to add a little joy into your life!
July 24, 2014 (Limited)
August 15, 2014 (Wide)
Run Time 1:33
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Magic in the Moonlight Fandango
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Magic in the Moonlight IMDB
- Magic in the Moonlight (2014) - IMDb
Directed by Woody Allen. With Colin Firth, Antonia Clarke, Natasha Andrews, Valérie Beaulieu. A romantic comedy about an Englishman brought in to help unmask a possible swindle. Personal and professional complications ensue.