Magic in the Moonlight is minor Woody Allen, but not without its charms
The new Woody Allen film, Magic in the Moonlight is nothing short of a delight. We all know Allen’s films can be hit and miss at times. His great works are unconventional rom-com plots spoonfed to us through clever dialogue and always seem to feel like they’ve ended too early. Then his lesser works are dragged along by rough dialogue and they almost always end too early. Magic in the Moonlight is a beautiful, Gatsby-esque picture assembled from a rushed script. To the point when a character actually says, “So… the plot thickens”.
Set in the 1920s in the French Riviera, illusionist Wei Ling Soo (who’s actually a British man named Stanley) spends his spare time making fools of the people who make fools of people: mediums. Stanley and his childhood friend Howard visit a rich American family who have become smitten, dependent on and possibly swindled by Sophie, a young physic whose powers are quite extraordinary. Rational thinker Stanley does his best to prove she’s a fraud. But is her clairvoyant gift the real deal?
Magic in the Moonlight’s concept is charming as well as clever, an illusionist being deceived by what could possibly be another illusion. Stanley’s world being shaken up so his ridged thinking and beliefs are thrown around to the point where he becomes terrified of the unknown: true love. Allen argues that the world is not always as it seems and love is a concept that shouldn’t always be rationalized. If "magic" has nothing to do with love, then it’s just simply an illusion that we’re fooled by. Even as a rational thinker myself, I know what I’d rather believe in.
Magic in the Moonlight is getting mixed reception but I urge you to give it a chance. Allen’s more ordinary films become an easy target for critics since they’re immediately put up alongside and compared to Allen’s masterpieces. His amazing ability to churn out a film (or two) a year has unfortunately become a flaw. He makes a couple of acceptable movies then delivers us a unique work of genius that makes us fall back in love with him. Allen could easily behave like the P.T Andersons and Tarantinos of this world and amaze us every four years but choses to just give us what he’s got. He’s passionate about all his endeavors, and I have great respect for that.
If you’re won over by aesthetics then Magic in the Moonlight is bound to entertain. Its incredible scenery and magnificent costumes are marvelous. If you’re an Allen fan/script analyst then perhaps its interesting subject matter will only go so far. The film’s rushed finale feels like Allen couldn’t wait to wrap it up and dive into his new idea. But I’d suggest easing off ol’ Woody and not judging him too harshly, I’m sure his next one will make up for it.