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Magic in the Moonlight - Movie Review


3 stars

Ah, the mystique of beauty and youth.

Woody Allen returns to his existential comedy roots and finds a new leading lady in the muse of the always remarkable Emma Stone with Magic in the Moonlight, his 46th film. You can think whatever you want to think about him. Allen doesn’t care. He has his fans and is always working, offering a film each year (sometimes two). The artist is always writing the next movie to direct. It is remarkable and maddening and seemingly without end. Little wonder then that he thematically repeats himself from time to time.

Forever in tune with the Jazz Age, Allen’s creative steps fall in and out of a sort of syncopated rhythm. He’s not politically correct. He’s not obsessed with making a masterpiece. He’s a reliable artist in love with the muse of the moment. That in itself is admirable because – for those paying attention - there simply is nothing new to Magic in the Moonlight other than its two leads, Stone and Colin Firth, and its South of France setting.  

Stanley Crawford (Firth), a cynical magician who appears in yellow-face on stage as conjurer Wei Ling Soo, is determined to discredit the so-called psychic abilities of Sophie Baker (Stone), among the expatriates in France. After working on a plan to trap her, he discovers a weird fascination developing because he disagrees over everything about her. Harking back to the pages of Henry James’ Daisy Miller, he remarks about her free and easy ways and comically chastises her American ways. And then something happens when truth meets illusion; something like love.

Maybe it’s the diffused lighting for Darius Khondji’s camera or the lush Côte d'Azur surroundings. Maybe it’s the power contained in the long takes of witty banter without one single cut between Firth and Stone. Maybe I’m just getting old. Whatever the reason, Magic in the Moonlight, while slight Allen, does indeed work. The zippy one-liners pile on but so does Crawford’s affection and attention toward Miss Baker. It only took a party of Gatsby-sized proportions to awaken those spirits and quiet lifelong cynicism as he buys into what the emerald eyes of Miss Baker are selling.

This is a simple tale of love and comedy. It is not frilly and certainly not suited for box office competition. It unwinds in typical Allen fashion and is as light as air. Cole Porter tunes play in its background and the world – compared to the reality that you and I know all too well – feels so very far away…which is why it works. The film is whimsical. Firth and Stone have a nice chemistry together in spite of their age difference and the peaceful easy feeling of the film is complimented by performances from Hamish Linklater, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Erica Leerhsen, Eileen Atkins, and Simon McBurney.

Magic in the Moonlight is not an Allen highlight. It doesn’t recapture the magic of its immediate cousin, Midnight in Paris, but it does deserve praise for what it establishes among its audience: a feeling of overwhelming enchantment. Movies just don’t do that anymore. Flaws (which includes a rushed script and familiar thematic terrain) and all, Allen manages to cast a spell over the audience and makes you believe that films like this can still be made.

It’s magic with no strings attached.


[tab title="Film Details"]

Magic in the Moonlight - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout.
97 mins
: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden
: Comedy | Romance
Magic in the Moonlight.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You're born, you commit no crime, and then you're sentenced to death."
Sony Pictures Classics
Official Site: http://www.sonyclassics.com/magicinthemoonlight/
Release Date:
July 25, 2014
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available
Synopsis: A romantic comedy about an Englishman brought in to help unmask a possible swindle. Personal and professional complications ensue.


[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

Magic in the Moonlight - Movie Review


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - December 16, 2014
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); UV digital copy; Digital copy
Region Encoding: A

Magic in the Moonlight is the sixth straight Woody Allen film to be released by Sony Pictures Classics.  Allen and his repeat cinematographer Darius Khondji (Midnight in Paris, To Rome with Love, the director's thus-untitled 2015 release) make the most of their setting.  They compose the 2.40:1 widescreen frame most tastefully: with sunny shots of scenic locales, sumptuous costumes, and grand old cars.  The soundtrack, of course, consists of old jazz, to which no other music compares for Allen.  Sony's Blu-ray does a fairly good job of presenting these components.  The picture is very vivid and the locales are crisp.  Black levels are strong throughout.  The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is agreeable.  Woody Allen will never be a director who really gets into sound design and directional effects.  The stories he writes don’t need them.  The soundtrack distributes the elements (from dialogue to audibly aged jazz numbers) crisply and consistently.



  • None

Special Features:

Allen is also not much of a supplemental material director.  The pickings usually range from one to none.  On this disc, fans get three choices.  It seems Sony is wearing on Allen’s anti-extras stance.  At Sony, Woody Allen has relaxed from his no extras but the trailer stance.  Up first is a making-of featurette compiled from interviews with Colin Firth, Jacki Weaver, and Hamish Linklater.  The actors talk about the cast's camaraderie, the appeal of shooting in Southern France, and the big ideas the film touches on.  The next featurette features remarks from the cast, Leonard Maltin, and filmmaker David Permut mostly about Allen and a bit about Simon McBurney's cooking.  Finally, the trailer is attached.  A Digital HD UltraViolet code rounds out the release.

  • Behind the Magic (11 min)
  • On the Red Carpet: Los Angeles Film Premiere (3 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2 min)


[tab title="Trailer"]