Watching the latest Woody Allen movie in a fancy theater, in good company, a glass of exquisite wine should be the premise for a great evening. Magic in the moonlight is like the candy box that promises the best chocolates in the world and fails to deliver the excitement you have been waiting for. It is either that or we have come to think so highly of this man and expect to be swept off our feet by his every picture.
Well, do not get me wrong, here. I was not sorry a bit for spending two wonderful hours with Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden or Hamish Linklater. I loved the music, jazzy and reminiscent of The Roaring Twenties, the costumes and the setting. It actually made me travel back in time and feel like a flapper for one night, at a glorious, decadent party, foxtrotting my way through the chin-length bob beauties around me. It could have been the lovely wine but then again, there has to be some magic in this life, according to the director. I think this is the part I loved the best- the promise that we can go through all the misery and hardships, through the impervious, long hours of our time, hoping for the magic dust to slowly flicker above our heads and for a moment, make us feel alive.
The story is sweet, predictable and deprived of any shred of chemistry. Stanley Crawford, the greatest magician alive who plays his tricks in Chinese style, arrogant, skeptical and stiff, takes upon himself the task of unveiling Sophie - Emma Stone- the young mind reader as a delicious, yet authentic fraud. To please his friend and stay true to his reputation, Stanley allows himself to be deceived and played, to fall in love and change his colours, all for a pair of big, green eyes. Sophie is a young woman, who along her mother, is staying with a rich family on the French Riviera, where she has the son smitten with her looks and the mother with her apparent ability to speak to her dead husband.
Magic in the moonlight made me remember of another famous magician in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, who messes up with people's minds to get his hand on the mighty rock. It is yet another movie about faith versus reason and deception versus gullibility. In almost all Woody Allen movies, there are credulous characters that end up in either unfortunate situations or simply allow themselves to be mislead. It is never just the women or simply the men, it is actually our inner need to hope and dream that great movies and extraordinary books make sense and can be easily translated into our own lives. Underneath all neurotic, intelligent conversations, this is the thing that touches me the most when it comes to his movies- the buoyant nature of his characters who stumble and sometimes hit rock bottom yet always make it out if not safely at least elegantly. This particular movie feels like walking familiar ground, a sweet mixture of My Fair Lady and Henry James's Daisy Miller, a personal, yet idiosyncratic voyage into his mind and our own expectations that could never settle the debate over loving him utterly or hating him deeply. The nice change is that in this particular movie, the female character is the one who never gives in and works her mysterious, seductive ways on Stanley; romance is the ultimate winner, though chemistry seems to have faded somewhere on the way.
I pretty much felt like Sophie here, in a funny way. I may not be the American girl abroad nor am I into cunningly seduce magicians' minds, but rather inclined to believe that a shred of self-delusion could make your life a bit more tolerable. After all, ain't it all just a swindle ?