A man of mixed reviews, Woody Allen adds to the less impressive portion of his repertoire with ‘Magic in the Moonlight,’ a film of old Hollywood classic appeal but with an unoriginal sigh. Winning us over with films like ‘Midnight in Paris’ and ‘Blue Jasmine,’ this most recent addition disappoints with a tired tone and lack of mystery.
Set in the late 1920s, English magician Stanley (a theatrical Colin Firth) is brought by a friend to visit the supposed psychic Sophie (a confident Emma Stone) where he is expected to consult in proving that she is a fake. Of course scoffing at her every “vibration” and writing off the possibilities of a spiritual world, he relentlessly disbelieves in her abilities until in one revelation he is giddy to trust in her, only to later be brought down to Earth again, sure it’s nothing more than trickery he could do himself.
The back and forth of Stanley’s pessimism and optimism, as he joins Sophie in candle-floating séance practice and chats about the universe, is too practical. Few twists to be had, what we come to follow the most is the possibility of romance. Could this cynical man and curious woman, against his better judgment, get along? It seems an odd age match, but we hope for it because there is little else to be enthused by, that these two opposite people can meet somewhere in the middle. Almost betrothed to the terrible ukulele playing Brice (Hamish Linklater), eager to spoil her with gifts and travel, unapologetic and chipper Sophie seems more interested in controlling her ability to choose her path rather than follow her psychic ways.
‘Magic in the Moonlight’ is more of a relationship story of an unlikely pair having to explain one another than a deep look into what exists psychically. After some time, whether Sophie is faking or not, it’s easy to lose interest either way. Also starring Jacki Weaver as Brice’s mother Grace, supporter of Sophie and her mother’s (Marcia Gay Harden) new foundation and thankful to have been connected spiritually to her late husband in a séance, the characters are lively, but boring.
A full movie of formal comings and goings, arguing about the truth of life with inauthentic smiles, it’s too simple and with little potential to blow you away. A pleasant dive into 20s European high culture and beautiful costumes sparkle the most, but this is not Woody Allen’s finest work. Although we wish it, ‘Magic in the Moonlight’ will not put you under any sort of spell.