I'm a freelance writer, storyteller and poet living and writing in Manchester.
Published September 22nd 2014
I'll be honest: Woody Allen is one of those filmmakers whose genius - so widely renowned - never quite reached me. I could see it was there. I could see why so many people appreciated it. But I never quite connected with it. So, despite having been impressed with the trailers for Magic in the Moonlight, I was wary as I settled into my seat at the cinema.
Here, though, is a film where Woody Allen's comic touch is a bit more mainstream. Not terribly so. It's still got his flair, that offbeat, just-out-of-the-corner-of-your-eye wit that is so sharp, but isn't quite tangible. But it feels more accessible in this film.
Colin Firth is Stanley Crawford, a magician foremost in his field, whose help has been sought to uncover the fraud or legitimacy of an American psychic Sophie Baker, played by Emma Stone. Firth's portrayal of the layers of skeptical naturalism being eroded as he's confounded by Miss Baker's talents is magnificent. He deftly balances the wonder his character begins to feel with the lifelong cynicism that has driven him. Throughout the film, Firth skillfully brings inordinate charm Stanley's marked lack of charm and grace. He is, of course, no stranger to giving crotchety anti-heroes a dose of lovability, and this performance exceeds, in my eyes, the demands of both his Darcy portrayals.
Emma Stone brings her own charm to a character who relies on it in spades to succeed in her chosen career. She plays the role well, endearing herself readily to any audience member as sceptical and wary as Stanley, Her character is far more complex than she appears, and Stone's scenes often hint at more depth than the lines alone offer.
All of the characters and actors shine in this film, with flashes of brilliant wisdom and stunning naivete that, in another filmmaker's hands might come off wooden and trite. In Allen's, though, they are at once entirely human and laughably entertaining.
I won't deny the predictability of the story, but I do dismiss its impact. This film's journey, quite scenic in its authentic path through the south of France in the 1920s, is so much more than its destination, and so worth the drive.