Hot off the tail of last year’s Best Actress nod for Cate Blanchett with his critically and commercially successful film BLUE JASMINE, Woody Allen once again writes and directs a romantic tale – set in the grandeur and splendor of the 1920’s – with his latest film MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT….
As we meet the very talented magician Wei Ling Soo/Stanley (Collin Firth), he has become one of the top musicians in the world. Stanley is summoned by his dear friend since childhood, Howard (Simon McBurney), to assist him in outing a supposed young medium named Sophie (Emma Stone), since Stanley is “one of the greatest debunkers of spiritualists in the world”. Sophie has apparently managed to mesmerize the Cattlidge family, and Howard for that matter, with her mental impressions – her visions as they say – and how she seems to know everything about everyone.
Stanley has brought many a fraud of this type down over the years, so he takes on Howard’s challenge to prove Sophie is nothing but a fraud too! Sophie isn’t affected by Stanley’s appearance, even though she knows exactly why he has arrived – to prove to everyone that her visions are just a parlor trick which everyone is falling for. Sophie has too much on her plate to worry about any of that for now…..as young Brice Cattlidge (Hamish Linklater)is smitten with her, as he is constantly swooning over her with his seranades in an attempt to sweep her off her feet, to convince her to marry him.
Sophie and her mother Mrs. Baker (Marcia Gay Harden) are settling in quite nicely at the Cattlidges estate in the south of France, convincing everyone, including Stanley, that her powers and visions are unmistakably real – and that she is truly a medium with profound spiritualistic powers.
With Stanley convinced that Sophie is definitely “the real deal” he finds himself becoming more enchanted with her with each passing day. As Sophie is torn between the feelings that she is having for Stanley too, she must try to concentrate on the young Brice, as she, nor her mother, will ever want for anything once she has married into the Cattlidge fortune.
Will Stanley ever OUT Sophie as the fraud he has thought she was from the very beginning? Will Sophie decide to accept Brice’s advances, and proposal, to set her and her mother up for life? Or will the feelings that are surfacing for not only Stanley, but for Sophie too, become too intense for either of them to ignore?
I give MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT a B- : For Woody, producing something that could hold a candle to last year’s BLUE JASMINE was going to be next to impossible in my eyes, and sadly, I was right, as this film didn’t even come close. On the flip side of the equation though, being dropped into the 1920’s with all of its grandeur and splendor was alluring to view on screen, and who can play an English gentleman better than Firth –NO ONE– as I found myself enjoying his character and his initial interaction with Stone very much. It wasn’t until the romance starting ensuing that I began to find myself unnerved by the 50 something gentleman being captivated by the 25 year old Stone. I am not a prude by any means, and I enjoy both of these actors very much, but the whole concept of the 30 year age difference – although Allen has his own life to reflect upon when writing such themes – didn’t work for me. If Allen was wanting this age difference to work, he should have gone for a more mature-looking actress – as Stone looks like she is 12 – and someone who hasn’t been in so many films as of late playing 20 something roles – She is too NOW for me – just my two cents worth. But, I must also say that MAGIC IN MOONLIGHT was by far not the most terrible thing I have viewed this summer either. So if you love Allen’s work, period piece films, and aren’t taken at back from romances that span numerous decades, go check this film out at a theater near you this week……and share with me your thoughts after viewing – I would love hear what you think too J