I think that I may take Woody Allen for granted. He’s been working at nearly a one-movie-per-year pace since 1969, writing every screenplay himself, directing every film himself and starring in quite a lot of them. It’s consistency that has not been seen in decades and may not ever be seen again. But more often than not, critics will write off his yearly productions as “just another Woody Allen movie.”
Compared to a lot of the films that come out these days, even “just another Woody Allen movie” stands above the rest. So, although “Magic in the Moonlight” is middle-of-the-road for Allen, it is still a very enjoyable film that will entertain any moviegoer.
Set in 1928, the movie revolves around a renowned magician (Colin Firth) who is brought to the French Riviera to uncover a possibly fraudulent psychic (Emma Stone). As a “great debunker of mystics,” Firth’s Stanley Crawford meets his foil with Stone’s character. She is constantly being asked to predict this, foresee that, which she manages to do with uncanny accuracy. Over time, of course, Firth’s doubt is replaced by affection for Stone.
Firth is well-cast as an arrogant, self-centered magician who can seemingly talk himself into anything. He routinely flip-flops on whether Stone’s abilities are for real or even whether he is in love with her.
We get a glimpse into Allen’s mind as Stanley and the other characters muse on whether we need our illusions and beliefs to get through life or that “the world may be without purpose but it isn’t without magic.” These contemplative moments feel right at home during the film, a rarity compared to other films that bluntly preach opinions to their viewers.
The feel of “Magic in the Moonlight” is similar to many other Woody Allen movies. The transient scenery of the south of France, which provides a beautiful backdrop for the movie, doesn’t really take on a character of its own. The dialogue is sharp, using scarcely heard words like “chicanery” and providing thought-provoking sound bites like “desperate for hope in a world that has none.”
The characters are somewhat one-dimensional and neurotic — particularly Allen’s self-centered leading man, Stanley Crawford. However, Stone is a breath of fresh air on screen every time Allen tightens the camera on her adorable, old-timey-hat-covered head. It’s a shame that she isn’t given more freedom to be the quick, sassy character that she plays so well in other movies (like “Zombieland” or “Crazy Stupid Love”) but she does her best to fit in here nonetheless.
The more I think about this movie, the more I remember how enamored I was with it after the final credits began to roll. It was truly delightful. I’m not sure if it was the British accents, the gorgeous setting or Stone lighting up the screen, but it was an enthralling experience. I tend to get this way during Allen’s films.
He manages to create this fully envisioned world in almost all of his films that I have seen. You can’t help but get engrossed in the events unfolding on screen. Even though “Magic in the Moonlight” doesn’t have the lasting impact of last year’s “Blue Jasmine,” it is a pleasant experience for any filmgoer.
“Magic in the Moonlight” is not among Woody Allen’s best, but it is a charming movie nonetheless. It’s best if you don’t worry about where it ranks in the annals of Allen’s filmography. Take it for what it is: a very enjoyable movie that will draw you in and make you start to wonder about how you view to world. All I know is that seeing this story through the lens of Woody Allen’s camera is an opportunity that should not be missed.