“When the heart rules the head, disaster follows,” said Stanley.
Woody Allen’s long time crush with romance-laden Europe continues in his latest comedy-romance Magic In The Moonlight, when he brings the telling to Côte d’Azur or French Riviera, you name it.
The sky-blue ocean of Côte d’Azur becomes a background and a witness of a romance seasoned with believer /non-believer issue and age-difference problem. In this period piece, Colin Firth portrays Stanley Crawford, an English famous magician from the early of twentieth century, who usually fashions himself as an Orient illusionist called Wei Ling Soo. The heady Stanley is a tempered grump and a rationalist; he only believes in “real” things and not some supernatural gimmicks. He’s practically a successful performer but never a joyful person in real life.
One day, a fellow magician Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney) invites him to French to confront a beautiful, young American medium, Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), whose supernatural talents attracts the Catledges. Infuriated, Stanley attempts to reveal the fraud with his rational thought. Here, his strict, conservative belief confronts vis-a-vis with Sophie’s, but there’s something more than just different beliefs that entangles them.
Magic In The Moonlight walks firm from the beginning as a predictable, formulaic romance. The story flows very simple and almost never becomes tense in presenting the conflicts—the believer/non-believer issue. Even so, I still admire how Woody Allen crafts the story in details and beauty—stuffing every moment with quotable lines and every frame with lime-colored old Europe and resonant nuance. Allen crafts back all scenes from classic Europe movies with more vibrant colors, including the drive through the coasts with blue ocean in background and every walk through the park with luxurious, elegant feel in every where.
If Allen nails it with his reconstruction (or resurrection) of his good ol’ day with graceful cinematography and fancy dialogue shifts; he misses the main mission of Stanley and misses the main function of Sophie. Their significance within the story is engulfed by the fancy dialogues and the setup for the sweet romance. Firth’s Stanley cannot even stand against what he doesn’t believe after Sophie consecutively screws him with her “mental vibrant” thing. With an excessively prolonged mid act, chemistry between those two characters never feels so real (except., the observatory scene).
Yet, that’s the essence of the literal magic in the moonlight. The provoking debate summoned from the very beginning is left unanswered and is finally concluded with Stanley’s submission. It can be seen as a positive change for his character, but not for the whole story. In the end, Magic In The Moonlight loses its rooting conflicts but gets an eventual sweet romance as a compensation.
VERDICT: Woody Allen gracefully reconstructs the splendors of Old Europe elegantly, but Magic In The Moonlight loses its essence as it gets the romance in compensation.
Magic In The Moonlight (2014)
Comedy, Romance Written & Directed by: Woody Allen Starred by: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Simon McBurney, Marcia Gay Harden, Eileen Atkins Running Time: 97 mins Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout