Magic In The Moonlight

Starring: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Eileen Atkins, Hamish Linklater, Jacki Weaver, Marcia Gay Harden, Simon McBurney.

Directed By Woody Allen

I wish Woody Allen was more consistent. I feel like I love every-other-film of his. Case in point, I loved Blue Jasmine, but not To Rome With Love, but I loved Midnight In Paris. I should love his next film then, because I didn’t care for Magic In The Moonlight.

A lot of my not caring for the film lies with Emma Stone. I absolutely love Emma Stone, and was excited to see what Woody Allen would do with her. He’s stripped her of everything that makes her likeable, and forced her to speak his dialogue word-for-word, and it’s actually painful to watch. She doesn’t speak like Woody, and she struggles to figure out how to say every phrase he’s given her. It’s like watching someone who can’t act for an hour and a half, but it’s worse here, because I loved Emma Stone in The Help, Easy A, and Zombieland. I’ve also heard she’s good in Birdman. Woody Allen and Emma Stone don’t go together.

More importantly because of this, Stone is never comfortable in her role. She never connects to her character, and never forms a connection with Colin Firth (who actually isn’t bad in his role). But the film hinges on these two having chemistry, and they don’t. It’s a miscast of epic proportions, because it brings the whole film down. I enjoyed parts of the film, but they were mostly the parts that Emma Stone wasn’t on screen. Eileen Atkins is a standout in her role.

The concept actually isn’t bad. A magician is brought in to prove that a girl is faking that she has psychic powers. She’s so good at what she does, she ends up convincing him, and he falls in love with her. She ends up falling for him. It should have been a good movie, but it was ruined, and Allen seemed to not notice.

I wonder if Woody is happy with the finished product, or if he realized halfway through that he’d made a mistake, and just finished the film as best he could. I probably would have just told Emma Stone to start ad-libbing, and hoping that she’d fall into the character if she was speaking her own words. Woody is too proud of a writer/director to do that. But sometimes, you get it wrong, and you can either put your foot down and freight train through the wreckage, or you can try and fix what’s happened. Woody just drove straight through the wreckage.

There are worse films this year, and a charming script tries so hard to make up for the shortcomings of the finished product. It’s a frustrating film, because I can directly pinpoint where it went wrong, and I have a feeling that a simple recast could have changed the entire movie. Sure, it’s not as deep as Blue Jasmine was, but it could have been a little piece of magic over the summer when we often get so little. Disappointing, to say the least.

FINAL GRADE: C-

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