Sunday, June 14, 2015
Magic in the Moonlight
Written and directed by Woody Allen, Magic in the Moonlight is the story of an illusionist in the late 1920s who try to disprove the work of a clairvoyant while being charmed by her. The film is an exploration into Allen’s love for magic as it plays into a man who doesn’t really believe in magic while falling for a woman who might prove that he’s wrong. Starring Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Hamish Linklater, Simon McBurney, Jacki Weaver, Erica Leershen, Eileen Atkins, and Marcia Gay Harden. Magic in the Moonlight is a delightful and charming film from Woody Allen.
Set in 1928, the film plays into an illusionist’s attempt to expose a young clairvoyant as a fraud as it’s part of a job he is known for yet would be intrigued by her and eventually fall for her. It’s a film that plays into this conflict over cynicism and spirituality as the character of Stanley (Colin Firth) is a man of rational thoughts as he doesn’t believe in God or anything. Spurred by a friend who is convinced by the powers of this young clairvoyant named Sophie (Emma Stone), Stanley travels to the French Riviera to see if Sophie is real or is a fraud. Along the way, things become weirder as Stanley wonders if Sophie is really faking it or did she find a way to crack into his cynical view of the world. While Woody Allen’s screenplay does follow a predictable and formulaic storyline, it does manage to create situations that are funny but also engaging into Stanley and Sophie’s growing friendship.
Though Stanley is engaged to another woman and Sophie is in a relationship with a young rich man, there is an attraction that is electrifying to watch where Stanley is often baffled by Sophie while Sophie tries to figure who what Stanley is doing. Even as Stanley becomes conflicted in exposing Sophie as a fraud while being in love with her that would play a key part into the film’s second act. While a twist does get unveiled into the third act where it’s not entirely successful, it does play into Stanley’s own view of the world and this growing confusion he has in just believing something that might not be real or just stick to the ideas of reality.
Allen’s direction is quite straightforward while it does employ elements of style such as the opening scene of Stanley performing as it shows his mastery in illusion. At the same time, it shows exactly how much of a pain in the ass he is as he’s egotistical and craving for perfection behind the scenes. Allen’s usage of wide shots not only help make the locations in the French Rivera quite beautiful but it also plays into the wide divide between Sophie’s love of mysticism and Stanley’s own cynicism. Allen’s usage of close-ups and medium shot not only play to the film’s humor but also in the growing attraction between Stanley and Sophie that is filled with a sense of joy along with some dramatic tension. Though things do get clunky in its third act as it relates to a twist in the film, it does play into Stanley’s own resolve about everything he had thought about in the world and what should he accept. Overall, Allen creates an enjoyable though flawed film about a man trying to disprove the credibility of a young clairvoyant.
Cinematographer Darius Khondji does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography to capture the beauty of the French Riviera locations as well as the gardens in some of the houses while using some unique lighting schemes and textures to play into the film‘s look. Editor Alisa Lepselter does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with a few dissolves and rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s humor. Production designer Anne Siebel, with set decorators Jille Azis and Fanny Landsberg, does fantastic work with the look of the homes that the characters live in as well as Stanley’s stage show and the places the characters go to. Costume designer Sonia Grande does amazing work with the costumes from the period clothes of the men to the gorgeous dresses that the women wear.
Visual effects supervisor Andrew Lim does nice work with one of the film‘s minimal visual effects sequence that involves a scene where Stanley and Sophie look at the sky at night inside an observatory. Sound editor Robert Hein does terrific work with the sound to create something that is sparse and low-key while capturing the exuberance in a few of the party scenes. The film’s music soundtrack consists of different genres of music from jazz to classical as it plays into the period of the time as it is one of the film’s highlights.
The casting by Juliet Taylor, Patricia Kerrigan DiCerto, and Stephane Foenkinos is superb as it features a few small performances from Catherine McCormack as Stanley’s fiancee Olivia, Lionel Abelanski as a doctor late in the film, Jeremy Shamos and Erica Leershen in their respective roles as George and Caroline who are amazed by Sophie’s gift, and Eileen Atkins in a wonderful performance as Stanley’s Aunt Vanessa whom he is fond of as she is impressed by Sophie. Jacki Weaver is fantastic as Grace as a family matriarch who asks Sophie to communicate with her late husband as she brings a lot of spark to her character. Marcia Gay Harden is terrific as Sophie’s mother who would accompany Sophie on a few of these things while trying to prove to Stanley that she is the real thing.
Hamish Linklater is excellent as Grace’s son Brice who is deeply in love with Sophie as he falls under her spell as he brings a lot of humor in just being intentionally bland and singing awful love songs to Sophie. Simon McBurney is fantastic as Stanley’s friend Howard who is also an illusionist as he wants to see if Stanley can prove that she is a fraud as he provides some delightful supporting work in his performance. Emma Stone is amazing as Sophie as this young woman who has the power to see the future and such as she deals with Stanley’s snide attitude where Stone brings a lively presence to her performance. Finally, there’s Colin Firth in a brilliant performance as Stanley as a renowned illusionist and psychic debunker who finds himself baffled by Sophie as he struggles with his feelings for her and his job where Firth brings a lot of humility and humor into his performance.
Magic in the Moonlight is a stellar film from Woody Allen that features great performances from Colin Firth and Emma Stone. While it is a flawed film, it is a still an enjoyable and fun film that explores the world of magic and spirituality. In the end, Magic in the Moonlight is a wonderful film from Woody Allen.
Woody Allen Films: What's Up Tiger Lily? - Take the Money and Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - September - Another Woman - New York Stories: Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Shadows and Fog - Husbands and Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Bullets Over Broadway - Don't Drink the Water - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet and Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra's Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)
The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4
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