Magic in the Moonlight  (2014)

There was a time when I loved everything Woody Allen did. In terms of movies, that is. Annie Hall, Manhattan, Sleepers, Love & Death, these are all movies I can watch repeatedly and still enjoy. The usual criticism of Allen is that his recent movies are disappointing, but even looking at the past few years I have enjoyed Match Point, Scoop, Anything Else, To Rome With Love, and Blue Jasmine; I loved Midnight In Paris. He's also had duds like Whatever Works, and hit a low point for me with Magic In The Moonlight.

Emma Stone plays Sophie, a supposed psychic, who Stanley, played by Colin Firth, is determined to expose as a hoax. Stanley agrees to spend time with Sophie, her protective stage-mother, and a rich family who believes every word she says (including their son who is smitten with her) in their estate in the south of France. Stanley develops feelings, they appear to be mutual, until a few twists threaten the relationship.

Colin Firth is 54. Emma Stone is 26. It's been a theme in Allen movies forever to have a young woman fall for an older man, but with today's awareness, it gets creepier and creepier every time he writes a script like that. It also hurts this movie because the two have zero chemistry. The age gap is visually evident, and their flirting just seems like some old creep trying to hit on a cute young girl at a bar.

Emma Stone is a divisive actress, with most people either loving or hating her.  When she first started I enjoyed her, but for the first time I was really annoyed by her. I thought she was kind of a weak link in Birdman, and she fell even further here. I'm not sure if it was entirely her, or the script, or the complete lack of chemistry between her and Firth. Firth also never really felt right in the role that Woody writes into every movie that is essentially himself. The quirky, awkward, stammering roles he usually takes should've made him a good fit, but he never just caught stride.

The biggest problem I had was that it didn't really feel like a "Woody Allen movie", it didn't have the brainy script, it didn't have the witty insults, it didn't have the connection between characters. It just fell short in just about every way. I'm not ready to totally write off Allen. He keeps a maniacal pace of putting out one movie per year, and I'm willing to keep giving him chances. His effort for 2015 "Irrational Man" looks interesting, so I know I'm going to stick around at least once more.

 

 

On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, "Magic in the Moonlight" gets a 2 out of 10.