I have attacked Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight, and never reviewed any of Allen’s other movies (some of which are pretty good). So I will now review one of his better (not his best, but better) films. This love letter to the 1920s features great acting by Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Marion Cotillard. The screenplay, visuals, and soundtrack are also top-notch and help bring forth the decent story and interesting concept.
Owen Wilson stars as the screenwriter who travels back to the 1920s and meets all of his writer-idols. Wilson, who has had his share of flops, manages to put in a pretty good performance . Wilson takes an Allen screenplay and does make the leading man a little more likeable than they usually are. The best part, however, of his performance is the charm and charisma he exudes in the 1920 scenes. Rachel McAdams plays opposite Wilson, and she plays pretty well too. There is a very observable disconnect between the two characters, which works well with the story and screenplay. McAdams is however significantly less charming than Wilson and is fairly quickly dismissed by the audience as a nuisance. Marion Cotillard plays the 1920s girl who ends up falling in love with Wilson’s character. Cotillard and Wilson have very strong onscreen chemistry, and Cotillard also has a handful of strong individual scenes (especially in the last 10 minutes or so of the film).
Also in the movie are Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy who play Wilson’s to-be-parents-in-law. They seem to serve as the film’s comic relief, and honestly they do it pretty well despite the lack of laugh-out-loud moments. The greatest acting performances in the film are those of the 1920 artists and writers such as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald played by Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston respectively. Out of all the 1920s characters, these are the two most interesting and well acted. Hiddleston especially puts in a strong and calm performance that is both interesting and simple. Corey Stoll also puts in an interesting portrayal of Ernest Hemingway that is compelling. Stoll’s nuanced scene with Hiddleston however may be the strongest scene in the film, showcasing two of the strongest actors of the decade with a well written screenplay. Kathy Bates is also given a few scenes as the funny yet compelling Gertrude Stein and she too puts in a well-crafted performance.
The screenplay, by Woody Allen, is also a big part in making this movie as good as it is. The Wilson and McAdams scenes in 2010 are pretty good and (like most Allen films) feature realistic dialogue and conversation, but the greatest scenes in the film all take place in the 1920s. The dialogue is well-crafted, nuanced, and features great understanding for the artists and writers (especially some great pieces of dialogue for Hemmingway). The screenplay also serves as serves as a showcase for some great final ten minutes which really helps carry home the points and themes of the film. The only downside of the Oscar winning screenplay however is the slight overkill of references with a couple characters ho were probably not necessary to the plot or film (such as Cole Porter, T.S. Eliot, and Leo Stein). I think tat it comes from a place of Allen wanting to make tis film into a love-letter to the 1920s and their artists and therefore forgetting that each notable character has to serve a mild dramatic purpose.
The film also features some great cinematography that showcases the beauty and nostalgia that’s generally associated with the 1920s and Paris. The last scene of the movie is the scene that truly showcases the cinematography with beauty yet well-crafted dramatic effect. The first three minutes of the movie is also just a series of beautiful shots of Paris landmarks which surprisingly add significantly o the film, also in part due to the soundtrack. The soundtrack also features a fell of nostalgia and beauty and accents the genuine screenplay and brings forth the characters and underscores the dialogue and visuals very well. In my review of Magic in the Moonlight, I was very hard on poorly used soundtrack, but in this movie I only have positive things to say about it. The production design and costumes are also stunning and truly helps to bring the 1920s alive in a genuine and visually beautiful manner.
With very few negative things to say about this movie, this is one of Allen’s better films and one of Wilson’s best movies. The best part of the movie is when Wilson travels back to the very well-crafted 1920s and all the great featured actors in those scenes (especially Stoll and Hiddleston).
Best Aspect- Corey Stoll and Tom Hiddleston
Worst Aspect- Some of the 2010 scenes
Rating- 8.4/10 or B