Magic in the Moonlight, the new film from Woody Allen, is about an English magician named Stanley (Colin Firth) who is lured in to helping an old friend unmask a phoney physic, who happens, of course, to be a beautiful young lady (Emma Stone) and personal and professional complications ensue. The film takes place in the south of France in the late 1920s and features an elegant and elaborate backdrop of mansions, jazz joints, and fashionable spots that exist as a playground for the wealthy of the Jazz Age.
Allen is known for his strong female characters who are often written with a certain actress in mind. This time around, though, he has clearly designed Stanley around the comedic timing and sensibilities of Firth. And since this is tailor made for him, Firth excels. Equally charming and engaging is Emma Stone as the actress gets to show off her comedic sensibilities as his would-be love interest. Her Sophie has the lovely ability to accurately feign naivety when she bats her eyelashes over puppy dog eyes, the skeptic Stanley is quickly drawn in to her web, just as Stone’s performance lures in the audience. The supporting cast is strong as well with stellar performances from both Simon McBurney and Hamish Linklater.
Magic in the Moonlight is one of Allen’s more light-weight endeavors, a whimsical foray into the world of magic and skepticism that surrounds a charming yet airy romance between our two leads. The film really has no message behind the context, as some of Woody’s films are apt to, but it’s simply there to provide some entertainment and laughs, and in this it manages to succeed. The film does suffer from some unevenness in the middle act; things slow down to a crawl for a while, but packs enough genuine laughs along the way that it’s hard to deny in the end.
Not destined to be regarded as one of Allen’s greats, Magic in the Moonlight is still packs enough charm and wit to satisfy most audiences.