Another year, another Allen. America’s most prolific and dependable filmmaker Woody Allen returns with yet another jazz-infused romantic-comedy for the thirty-second year on the trot. Fresh off the success of his latest Oscar winner Blue Jasmine, the legendary New Yorker once again jets off across the Atlantic for another slice of old-timey fun, but surely that classic comedic formula Allen has somehow kept afloat for so long must be getting a little tired by now? Surprisingly enough, not a chance.
2014‘s installment of vintage Allen, Magic In The Moonlight relocates the trademark wit and wonder to 1920s France, where innately neurotic magician Stanley (Colin Firth) finds himself toe-to-toe with wide-eyed young American Sophie (Emma Stone), a much lauded and highly sought-after psychic. Ever the cynic, Stanley jumps straight into desperately attempting to debunk what he sees as fantastical drivel, but soon finds that everything he initially thought about life, the universe and even Sophie herself, may not entirely be true.
The base and soul of the film still lies in Allen’s classic sarcastic humour and effortlessly amorous set-ups; put simply, it sticks to what he does best. In fact, the film’s entire demeanor is so well refined that it becomes clear very quickly that Allen could make films like this in his sleep, and at times it almost feels like he is. Although spritely and full of charm, the film very rarely ventures out of its creator’s comfort zone, constantly winking and edging towards a higher reasoning that it never quite lands. This ultimately means that, despite the film being nearly completely flawless in its romantic execution, it all feels far too safe. Allen has a recipe for something really quite spectacular on his hands, but he opts instead for the same thing he’s always done (albeit with slightly more extravagant ingredients), and the result is something obviously a little blander than expected.
The potential to go the distance is plain to see: an exemplary Emma Stone remains as desirable as ever, whilst fellow lead Colin Firth walks a steady line between honesty and cynicism with a welcome flair for theatrics. The period setting is painlessly knitted into the tale with the ease of a master craftsman whilst the humour stands strong and fiercely unique, built upon a perfect foundation of wry laughs. And yet, in spite of this wealth of talent and intelligence, Magic In The Moonlight opts for an incredibly standard story arc and, in the process, limits itself to simply being watchable and eventually, fairly forgettable.
Magic In The Moonlight (2014), directed by Woody Allen is released in the UK by Warner Bros. Pictures, Certificate 12A. Watch the trailer below.