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Magic in the Moonlight review

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In recent years, Woody Allen’s narrative features have been more accomplished than his ensembles pieces. Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine compelled and enchanted us in equal measure, whereas the less said about To Rome With Love and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger the better. However this feature, with only a small cast and simplistic structure, is somewhat more akin to the latter, being a film that, much like it’s protagonists, flatters to deceive.

Colin Firth plays Stanley, arguably the world’s finest magician, performing under the guise of Wei Ling Soo. While that may be his profession, his hobby is catching out fraudulent opportunists, who pretend they can communicate with the dead. However when his old friend Howard (Simon McBurney) tells him there’s a young girl who appears to possess a genuine talent in that area, he sets off to the south of France to meet her, dispel the myth, and prove that she’s a phoney. But when he meets the beguiling Sophie (Emma Stone) he can’t find any faults, and suddenly, with his tail between his legs, he starts to question all that he had previously believed.

As soon as you see the white Windsor font on a black background, you know instantly it’s time for Allen’s annual endeavour, as you sit back in your seat to indulge in his latest offering. The atmosphere is magical, the 1920s setting seems perfectly fitting to Allen’s tone (hence why it proved to be such a glorious setting for the nostalgia-infused Midnight in Paris), as the whole costumes and decor – mixed with the soothing, era defining music, makes for an amiable piece. There is of course that sardonic wit prevalent too, and Firth does a good job embodying our protagonist, though perhaps isn’t quite endearing nor pathetic enough in the role to truly shine as a typical Woody Allen lead. The romantic narrative has it’s problems too, as there is a distinct lack of chemistry between Firth and Stone, proving detrimental to the overall enjoyment of the feature.

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Magic in the Moonlight is by no means a terrible film, but it’s caught between being a drama, a comedy and a romance – with little direction. A shame, because usually it’s the fusion of all three of these genres where Allen comes into his element. It’s an easy watch though, and one that you certainly wouldn’t regret spending time with on a rainy day in, but may well question whether a trip to the cinema was completely worthwhile.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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