Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Movie Review: "Magic in the Moonlight" (2014)

Movie"Magic in the Moonlight"
Director: Woody Allen
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
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Stanley (Colin Firth) is a renowned British born magician that goes by the stage name Wei Ling Soo. He is also a professional skeptic and debunker who is always happy to expose phony psychics and mediums. A friend and colleague of his, Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney), has come across a particularly tricky case that has him baffled. Sophie (Emma Stone) is a young American psychic medium whom Howard seems to believe is genuine, in his opinion.  He wants to bring Stanley to the south of France where Sophie is providing her services to a family of wealthy aristocrats to see if he can show them she's a fraud. Stanley quickly accepts, but this task may be more difficult than he expects. 

Woody Allen's last few movies have been ones we have enjoyed quite a bit, mainly because he isn't the star of them. While "Magic in the Moonlight" doesn't actually have Allen in it, the writing of his characters seems to be part of the problem with this film, besides the fact that it's extremely predictable. The part of Stanley, played by Colin Firth, is wholly unlikable as a person and as a main character. He is extremely abrasive because of his skepticism and is very belligerent about his beliefs. If this is meant to come across as humorous, it's not. His rude and sometimes obnoxious pushiness erases whatever humor he offers as a character. Emma Stone's Sophie is like a lost child, unsure of herself as a person, and many times, unsure of "her gift" as a whole. We got the sense that she was trying to model the quirkiness and behaviors of Diane Keaton, but this seems unsuccessful.

Beyond this, Allen as a director (and probably as a person judging by the rumors of his personal life) appears to be content in forcing his own views and perceptions of love onto his audiences. Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with having a sizable age difference between you and your loved one, we're far from prudes about such things. In fact, BigJ (my husband) and I are 7 years apart in age and some people think/have thought that is too weird and too much of an age gap. The age difference between Colin Firth and Emma Stone (who is 25) is 28 years, and it could be a different story altogether if they had any sort of chemistry in this movie, but they don't. Their romance lacks no passion and feels completely forced. We liken their relationship to that of a bickering father and daughter, or child and not-so-distant family member. We felt no spark, no love, and no chemistry between the two of them.

The one specific scene that had any potential to further the development of their relationship or romance in general involved a stargazing observatory in the rain. Could you ask for a better setup?! When the two were close to one another, dripping wet and trying to keep warm, the maladroitness of their age is truly shown in the faces of the actors themselves. It's not their acting that suffers, but their seeming awkwardness as a potential couple. Also, Sophie's lack of a father figure may attribute to her attraction of Stanley. Yeah, we went there, she seems to have "daddy issues." And how could you fall in love with someone who constantly talks down to you like Stanley did to Sophie? It's not the least bit attractive.

There are some positives about this movie, though they are few and far between for us. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, but of course, it is the south of France. For as poorly as the characters were written, all of the acting is just fine and dandy. The actors do well with what they are given. The soundtrack and late 1920's feel of the decor, costumes, and setting is charming, but ultimately lacks in outweighing the bad.

Most of the lack of emotion and passion in the film stems from the underdeveloped script. Woody Allen loves a good screwball movie and most hardcore fans may disagree with how we feel about this film, but we didn't find it all that new or compelling. It is a far cry from his much better, more recent works like "Blue Jasmine" and "Midnight in Paris." We also don't care for the general message of the film, which is about how happiness can only come from deluding yourself into believing in fantasies. Just because we only get one life doesn't make it pointless! In fact, since that is the truth, we should live it to the fullest, Carpe Diem, you know?...or as many of hip kids say, YOLO!

Maybe we're just as skeptical of this movie as Colin Firth's Stanley. It doesn't go much of anywhere and lacks a connection to keep us intrigued with their lives. It's not a horrible film, it's just falls flat and is very expected, almost like a recycled, second-rate Woody Allen classic twisted into something different and less magical. Woody Allen, we know you're reading this. Just because you've decided to stop starring in your own movies doesn't mean to need to cast men who are as old as your leading lady's father to get your point across.

My Rating: 4.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 50%
Do we recommend this movie: No.
One year ago, we were watching: "An Unmarried Woman"

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