Magic in the Moonlight (Sony Pictures Classics), the 2014 installment from legendary writer-director Woody Allen, is not his finest film.
Allen, who gave us the delightful Midnight in Paris in 2011, is one of the busiest filmmakers with the release of one film a year.
Colin Firth and Emma Stone lead an ensemble cast that includes Eileen Atkins, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, Simon McBurney, and Jacki Weaver.
Allen returns to France once more. This time, the period film is set during the 1920s on the Riviera. The romantic comedy sees the master magician Wei Ling Soo, the stage persona for Firth’s Stanley Crawford, attempt to expose psychic medium Sophie Baker (Stone) as a fake.
Soo is one of the greatest magicians of his time but it is only just a stage persona. In reality, Crawford is a grouchy and arrogant Englishman who thinks very highly of himself. Moreover, he finds spiritualists to be phony.
Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney) pursuades Crawford, his long-long friend, to go on a mission to the mansion of the Catledge family: mother Grace (Jacki Weaver), son Brice (Hamish Linklater), and daughter Caroline (Erica Leerhsen). This is where Crawford poses as a businessman in order to debunk the young medium who is staying with her mom (Marcia Gay Harden). Easier said than done.
Grace invited the Bakers. She is convinced that Sophie will enable her to make contact with her late husband. Sophie is also being wooed by Brice as he has fallen for her.
Stanley dismisses Sophie, thinking that he will be able to unmask her in no time and that the family will be gullible. Much to his dismay, Sophie is able to accomplish a number of mind-reading and supernatural feats that defy any sense of rational thinking. This leaves Stanley dumbfounded and he confides to his Aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins) about whether her powers could be real. If they were real, Stanley starts to think that anything could be possible, even if it meant his entire beliefs crashing down on him.
The biggest trick, as the series of events unfold, is the one that fools everyone.
Allen is no stranger to magic. He performed tricks when he was a teenager, before he started writing for the likes of the great Sid Caesar. In Scoop, Allen cast himself as The Great Splendini.