Woody Allen has made some really good movies throughout his career, but not every single film of his is a hit. Allen has also had his fair share of flops, one of those flops being Magic in the Moonlight. This film has a simple and sweet premise– cheesy, but sweet– but the film ends up suffering from too much dialogue and poor performances. This film also features force character development that comes from plot-related necessity rather than the character actually changing naturally. But the film also serves up a beautiful film with topnotch cinematography and wonderful costumes, makeup, and production.
The cast is led by Colin Firth as the secular Stanley who is called to find out how a young fortune teller is pulling her tricks. Firth was actually the only reason I decided to watch his film as I think he is a great actor, but that does not get a chance to shine in this film. This may very well partially be the screenplay’s fault, but Firth doesn’t do much to clear up the awkwardly paced scenes, awkward dialogue, and non-existing chemistry with Emma Stone. Emma Stone plays opposite Firth as the soothsayer and eventual love interest. And as I already mentioned that the two have very weak chemistry, but Stone also has poor chemistry with her onscreen fiancé played by Hamish Linklater. Otherwise Stone’s portrayal is weak, boring, and pretty much non-existent.
Also in the film are a large number of other decent thespians playing weak characters who are ultimately forgettable and weak. Eileen Atkins plays the miniscule role of Staley’s aunt, who appears in some scenes, has some dialogue, and is ultimately used as a plot device. It’s so sad to see an actress like Atkins go to waste, and it’s not because she doesn’t try to put some life into the character, but there is no way of salvaging the screenplay for her. Marcia Gay Harden plays Stone’s mother and manages to make an otherwise boring character into a despicably even more boring character, it really seems like she just showed up and recited lines… Nothing more… Ugh! Hamish Linklater plays Stone’s onscreen fiancé and despite the lack of chemistry he has with Stone, he is actually kinda funny in a good way. This is probably in most part due to his ukulele playing and (very) flat singing. Simon McBurney plays the only truly interesting character in the film, but in the one scene where his character really had the opportunity to shine, McBurney didn’t bother putting anything into his line deliverance. Jacki Weaver also has a decently relevant part in the film as Linklater’s onscreen mother, and she’s okay… I guess. She’s more watchable than Harden.
Say what you want about the acting (I already have), but all this is probably in large part due to a really weak screenplay. The screenplay is so much dialogue put together in the least human way possible. Woody Allen, the screenwriter and director, has proved that he is a capable individual, so how the hell does he put something like this on the big screen. I just don’t get it. I really hope that it is because of studio-interference or something. But the story is sweet, and had it been together with a better screenplay, I may have given this film a D or maybe even a C, but it’s the screenplay, and its blatant disregard for emotions, character, and heart that makes this film practically unwatchable. But let me be positive for a moment. Darius Khondji’s cinematography is really nice and helps set a sweet mood and embraces the film’s great production design, costuming, and set decorating. But (back to the negatives), the music, supervised by Bobby Collins, used in the film was absolutely horribly put together. Happy-go-lucky jazz music would play during otherwise somber moments, which made he laugh during several of the saddest moments of the film.
Not even the best film makers succeed every time, and that is proven true by this weak showcase of Woody Allen. The film looks great, but other than that there really isn’t a whole of positives in this film. The acting, maybe except Linklater’s, is weak and unappealing and showcases how weak the screenplay itself is too. Otherwise there’s not a lot to say about this film…
Best Part- The visuals
Worst Part- Woody Allen’s screenplay