Not Much Magic in the Moonlight
Woody Allen’s latest film looks beautiful, but script does a disappearing act.
Magic in the Moonlight: Rated PG-13, 97 min. Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, Simon McBurney, Eileen Atkins, Hamish Linklater.
When we first meet Stanley (Colin Firth), he is wowing a Berlin audience as his alter ego, Wei Ling Soo, a Chinese illusionist whose grand finale is making an elephant vanish. The year is 1928, and Stanley’s old magician pal Howard (Simon McBurney) meets up with Stanley backstage, seeking his help. A rich American family has seemingly been put under the spell of a gold-digging mystic named Sophie (Emma Stone), and their fortune is in jeopardy because the heir, Brice (Hamish Linklater), is so besotted with her that all concerned fear he may propose marriage.
Those expecting a charming bonbon à la Midnight in Paris may wish to lower their expectations. Magic in the Moonlight’s story is exceedingly threadbare, a first draft that never got fleshed out or tightened up. Firth’s performance works – this is Mr. Darcy we’re talking about here – but Stone is often left with nothing to do except shimmer amid the beautiful cinematography of Darius Khondji.
The theme of the rational vs. the spiritual is one Allen has grappled with for most of his career, with much better results. It’s pretty evident that as long as he keeps attracting European financing, Allen will continue to mull them over in whatever agreeable locale suits his fancy. So, left with the travelogue eye-candy of the south of France and plot twists that question the meaning of that phrase’s definition, one has plenty of time to ponder the casting of Firth, 53, as a romantic partner to Stone, 25. Ah, that’s where that elephant went.
Now playing at the Oriental Theatre.