Review: Magic in the Moonlight

With pseudoscience, spiritualism and mysticism rampant on social media – and increasingly more ‘mainstream’ sites – the timing of Woody Allen’s latest romp could not be more apt, which is a surprise given it’s an Allen film, especially one set in the 1920s.

With pseudoscience, spiritualism and mysticism rampant on social media – and increasingly more ‘mainstream’ sites – the timing of Woody Allen’s latest romp could not be more apt, which is a surprise given it’s an Allen film, especially one set in the 1920s. Allen is an infamous non-believer, whose best films (Crimes & Misdemeanors and Match Point) show there is no higher purpose or fate. With this in mind, Colin Firth plays the perfect Allen foil in Stanley, a grumpy, stubborn and sarcastic magician, who dresses as a horrible caricature of a Chinese mystic (complete with Fu Manchu moustache, bald head and ponytail) to perform under the stage name Wei Ling Soo. A visit from old friend Howard (Simon McBurney) convinces Stanley to travel to the South of France to debunk a psychic (Sophie – Emma Stone) who Howard believes is fleecing a rich family with her supposed psychic abilities. At first, Stanley is a bit of a bore, despite some sarcastic zingers, but he becomes more likeable as he falls under Sophie’s spell, which isn’t hard to believe as Emma Stone (in a brilliant comedic performance) is enchanting as Sophie and plays an extremely likeable psychic. As the family (which includes another wonderful Jacki Weaver performance as the sweet but gullible matriarch, Grace) and even Stanley start believing Sophie’s spiritual visions and communication abilities, the audience wonders if Allen, like Stanley, has abandoned reason for mumbo jumbo. You will have to discover that for yourself. Over the last 10 years, Allen’s dramas (Blue Jasmine, Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona) have received more praise than his comedies and while Magic in the Moonlight isn’t an Allen comedy classic to rival Annie Hall or Zelig, it is a late-career romp up there with Midnight in Paris as one of Allen’s most enjoyable comedies of the last decade. Magic in the Moonlight is in cinemas now. Rated PG  

Adelaide In-depth

Get the latest stories, insights and exclusive giveaways delivered straight to your inbox every week.