Complete A-Z list

Magic in the Moonlight (AF)


Stars: Eileen Atkins, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, Simon McBurney, Emma Stone, Jacki Weaver, Erica Leerhsen, Catherine McCormack, Jeremy Shamos

Director: Woody Allen

Woody Allen can rightly lay claim to being possibly the most impressive filmmaker around since he manages to persuade producers to fund the movie – good, bad and Hollywood Ending - he grinds out each and every year. British TV licence payers can smile smugly at the concept that they, too, were movie producers since the BBC provided cash for the making of three of Allen’s less-than-impressive offerings – Match Point, Cassandra’s Dream and Scoop which was only released in Britain by video pirates on a North London street and later screened on TV, sensibly late at night without any fanfare, on BBC.

I consider myself an Allen completist in that I suffered (the only other choice was to take a walk at 30,000 feet which, I have to admit, I considered more than once during the film) watching Allen’s rightly unshown in the UK 2002 turkey during a flight to the United States. Give the man his due – nary a year passes without the words 'Written and directed by Woody Allen’ appearing on another movie.

Which brings me to his 2014 'treat' for moviegoers. Magic in the Moonlight might have passed muster as a retro television programme since its settings – the South of France in the Jazz Age – are attractive, well used and beautifully photographed in picture postcard style by Darius Khondji.

Unfortunately Magic in the Moonlight isn’t a travelogue. Instead Allen has hashed up a slim-to-emaciated story, which has English magician Colin Firth (rightly looking uncomfortable with both his role and his dialogue and deciding to play his role like a cardboard character straight out of P G Wodehouse) being asked to prove that ‘psychic’ Emma Stone (lovely but mostly out of her depth) is a fake… And, would you believe it, the odd couple fall in love…

Some of the dialogue is relatively snappy (or seems so in relation to the majority of lines that deservedly fell flat, as I waited for the seemingly endless, definitely underwhelming, sketch to end.

A few – very few – lines work. It’s a great pity that Allen apparently didn’t read his screenplay closely enough to realize his unfortunately bad decision to make Magic in the Moonlight was perfectly summed when Firth says (all right, in another context but completely apropos just the same) “When the heart rules the head, disaster follows”.

It’s hard not to agree one hundred per cent.

PS: As always, Allen lists his cast alphabetically with Eileen Atkins taking the billing honours here. Any actors considering taking part in Allen’s 2015 homework might consider changing their surname to ‘Aaron’: at least, on the evidence of Magic in the Moonlight, they’d have something to show for it.

Alan Frank

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Warner. Colour by deluxe.
97 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 21 Sep 2014