Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

Magic in the Moonlight (2014)
  • Time: 98 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance
  • Director: Woody Allen
  • Cast: Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden


Chinese conjuror Wei Ling Soo is the most celebrated magician of his age, but few know that he is the stage persona of Stanley Crawford, a grouchy and arrogant Englishman with a sky-high opinion of himself and an aversion to phony spiritualists’ claims. Persuaded by his friend, Howard Burkan, Stanley goes on a mission to the Côte d’Azur mansion of the Catledge family: mother Grace, son Brice, and daughter Caroline. He presents himself as a businessman named Stanley Taplinger in order to debunk the alluring young clairvoyant Sophie Baker who is staying there with her mother. Sophie arrived at the Catledge villa at the invitation of Grace, who is convinced that Sophie can help her contact her late husband, and once there, attracted the attention of Brice, who has fallen for her head over heels. What follows is a series of events that are magical in every sense of the word and send the characters reeling.


  • Sometimes, not always, I’ll watch a recent Woody Allen movie and it appears to me that all the actors have trouble articulating his stiff dialog. I’ve heard tell that they are forbidden by Allen from altering a single syllable and if true, it really shows in this film. No one in MITM seems comfortable speaking Allen’s words.

    With the dialog still clanging in my ears, I couldn’t tolerate any premise of romance between Stone and Firth. Firth looks older than his 54 years in this movie and his makeup is quite apparent. Stone looks like a teenager who needs to pack on another 15 pounds. Yet another Woody Allen débutante falling in love with a geezer plot line.

    Finally there is the plot itself. It simply doesn’t work, it’s extremely simplistic yet still implausible, and nearly everyone in the audience will figure out the con about 1/2 hr before Firth’s character does — even though he’s supposedly debunked dozens of spiritualist frauds before. I kept expecting his character would be perpetrating a reverse con on the fraudsters, but no such luck. That twist would have made for a better movie. Instead, anyone who has seen Matchstick Men will smell this stinker coming about 20 minutes in.

    Another thing I couldn’t understand. Several of the characters refer to themselves as “living in Provence” or “I want to go to Provence” as if it were a specific city located elsewhere to where they are standing at the time. Stone’s character says this as she stands on a veranda overlooking the Cote d’Azur. She couldn’t be any more in Provence.

  • Berlin, 1928. The celebrated magician Wei Ling-Soo rivets the audience as he saws a woman in half, makes an elephant disappear, and transports himself from a sarcophagus to a nearby chair. Under the yellowface and Fu Manchu mustache, he is Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth), a renowned debunker of sham mystics and false mediums.

    His old friend and fellow prestidigitator Howard (Simon McBurney) approaches him backstage and lays out a tempting proposition. The Catledges, a wealthy Pittsburgh family summering in the South of France, have become taken with the predictions of one spirit medium named Sophie Baker (Emma Stone). The matriarch Grace (Jacki Weaver) has already agreed to fund a foundation in her name while son Brice (Hamish Linklater), the heir to the fortune, is so lovestruck that he serenades Sophie when not proposing marriage.

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