Magic in the Moonlight
(Woody Allen, 2014)
Anyone who watches enough Woody Allen movies will see themes, ideas, characters repeating themselves (it’ll happen when you’ve been making a movie a year for about 4 decades). There are certainly plenty of elements here that have been done before, probably been done in more subtle fashion, maybe done in a more comprehensive way in his earlier work, but a lot of this still works here. Colin Firth is a riot, imbuing a not so likeable character with just the right amount of charm and wit to make him acceptable, but not so much that his edges are too significantly softened. Emma Stone is fine in tandem with him, though the vast majority of the film pretty much sees her on the leash. She’s capable of so much more, and it’s a little sad to see her getting stuck with a role that is too often beneath her.
The fact that the themes at the heart of the film (initially interestingly set up) are presented to us with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and that there are clear issues here (like a 28 year age gap between the leads) that go completely and utterly unaddressed leave the whole thing feeling a little bit unfulfilled, and disappointing. Given what we know of Woody Allen’s personal life the thing could frankly read as something sort of autobiographical (again, nothing new for him) and that makes the simpering pedestrian way in which events play out all the more irritatingly simplistic. I don’t really think it earns the ending that it goes for, and frankly a promising opening and generally entertaining closing are let down by a pretty poorly paced, heavily wordy mid section,
Firth, and Eileen Atkins, and Stone on occasion keep the whole thing watchable. There is plenty of humour in the movie that worked for me, and I think Allen’s attempt to lace the comedy with deeper introspection is occasionally admirable. it’s just a shame that this thing is kind of a mess that doesn’t do as much with the material as it could, that wastes the cast at its disposal (Did I mention that Marcia Gay Harden is in this movie? She might as well not be) that too often feels too soon before, and in spite of some amusing moments is just a bit of a mess from both a writing and filmmaking point of view. As with most minor Woody movies it’s watchable, it’s got more to it than most peoples major comedies, but it’s a let down considering what clearly might have been.