Friday, July 25, 2014
Magic in the Moonlight
In 1928, British magician Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) is at his career's peak while performing in disguise as a Chinese conjurer Wei Ling Soo. He is critical toward others, especially those who are superstitious and religious, including the Vatican. He seems to have his own right to be judgmental, because he is intelligent, confident, and strictly scientific-minded. He claims that he can unmask other magicians' tricks with little effort and expose any fraudulent clairvoyant in no time.
To further affirm that reputation, Stanley takes on a challenge brought by his childhood friend Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney) and comes to the estate of the Catledge family in Côte d'Azur. The Catledge family is deeply involved with a young and beautiful American psychic Sophie Baker (Emma Stone) who can communicate with after-life souls. The mother Grace Catledge (Jacki Weaver) is desperately to reconnect with her late husband. The son Brice Catledge (Hamish Linklater ) is hopelessly fall in love with Sophie and willing to do anything, besides singing love songs with his banjo, to marry her. But there is no doubt in Stanley's mind that Sophie is a fraud.
However, upon meeting with Sophie, Stanley's confidence and belief are shaken up by her impressive mind reading ability. With her beloved aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins) acting like his psychotherapist, he realizes his affection for Sophie behind his hostile attitude.
The most gleeful trick the director Woody Allen played in the film is to magically turn his protagonist Stanley from an arrogant and supercilious magician to an affectionate and appealing gentleman. Even it's expected that the filmmaker is unlikely to craft an unlikable character for us, however, just like watching a masterful magic performance, we are still dazed and delighted to see how Stanley is transformed in front our eyes. Then we ask ourselves, how did Woody Allen do it so convincingly and elegantly?
In the film, Woody Allen doesn't disappoint us when he unpacks witty and humorous dialogue as he constantly delivers in his films. That makes his characters both charming and irresistible, and the most mesmerizing character is Stanley's wise aunt Vanessa, who always stays cool and speaks eloquently.
This film certainly is not one of Woody Allen's best films, but it's definitely a refreshing entertainment for a pleasant summer night.