As it has for the last several years, the late summer brings us the release of the latest movie from Woody Allen. This year it is "Magic in the Moonlight" starring Colin Firth and Emma Stone and written and directed by Allen.
As has been the case with all of Allen's movies in recent years, the filming does not take place in New York City and instead is filmed in a European location, this time in the south of France. The movie takes place in 1928, and Firth plays a magician, the very best magician of his time who plays to sophisticated audiences all across Europe. He is also totally full of himself to the point of obnoxiousness, an agnostic with little or no belief in God, faith, or the idea of an afterlife. He is called upon by a fellow magician to travel incognito to the south of France to try a debunk a young woman, played by Stone, who is a spiritualist who is claiming to be able to contact the dead husband of a wealthy American woman. Firth accepts the challenge to prove that the woman is a fraud.
I won't give away any key plot points, but you can guess what happens. The stodgy Firth falls for Stone, who isn't sure whether or not to reciprocate. Firth is very good in his role, and Stone falls into the long line of Allen female co-stars (Louise Lasser, Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow, Scarlett Johansson), and she is quite good, although she has a long way to go to achieve the cachet of Keaton or Farrow. (That could happen, though, as IMDB reports that Stone will also be a part of the movie that Allen will release in 2015.) Perhaps the best character is Firth's Aunt Vanessa, played by Eileen Atkins.
Although there are no big belly laughs in this one, there is still a lot of funny Allen dialog, terrific period costumes and music, and the cinematography of southern France, as well as how Allen uses he sunlight to backdrop several scenes, is almost breathtaking. And has been the case in many of Allen's films, this one has a rather sweet and positive ending.
Do I think this is one of Allen's better movies? No, probably not, but even a middle-of-the-road picture from the Woodman is better than almost anything else that graces the movie screens, particularly during this summer season.