Magic in the Moonlight | Film Review


Woody Allen has done it once again, ladies and gents. He has created, birthed, and fathered yet again another cinematic gem. Magic in the Moonlight is not only visually and intellectually pleasing, but there is quite the 'mental vibration' of assimilating over what really is out there, and believing in a being bigger than we are ― and oh, how I do adore questioning everything.

(From left to right): Emma Stone, Woody Allen, and Colin Firth
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Set in 1928 on the French Riviera, Magic in the Moonlight revolves centrally around Stanley (Colin Firth).

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The film opens up at a magic show of globally renowned illusionist, Wei Ling Soo, in Berlin. We soon find out that Wei Ling Soo is actually an Englishman ― Stanley. Stanley is greeted by an old friend and fellow illusionist, Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney), and is asked by him to go to the Côte d'Azur (south of France), and help him prove a fraud out of a young mystic named Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), whom the Catledges, a rich American family, is taken in by.
   Stanley goes with Howard to the Catledge's estate, and meets the daughter of the family, Caroline (Erica Leerhsen), and her husband, George (Jeremy Shamos). They're worried that Caroline's brother and heir to the Catledge fortune, Brice (Hamish Linklater), will propose marriage to Sophie because he's beyond smitten with her. Howard tells Stanley that the more he watches Sophie, the more he believes in her supernatural powers. So, Stanley, being the English pessimist and faithful believer in science he is, sets out to unmask Sophie.

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   Expecting to immediately find her flaws, Stanley is taken aback by Sophie's ability to know specific details about his personal life. He sits in on a seance where Sophie attempts to talk to Caroline and Brice Catledge's deceased father, and successfully does so. A candle starts floating, but Howard grabs it midair in attempt to see what trickery is at play, but finds none.    

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   Stanley starts spending more time with Sophie, and takes her to meet his aunt Vanessa, whom also lives in the south of France. When arriving at aunt Vanessa's, Sophie holds her pearls to receive a 'mental vibration' about who she is, and somehow connects the pearls to Vanessa's epic love affair ― which just so happens to be completely accurate.

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   This finally persuades Stanley of Sophie's authenticity, and he has an epiphany. He realizes that living the way he has been his whole life, rationally and cynically, has led him completely astray to living life fully and appreciating a bigger presence in our lives.

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   Driving back to the Catledge's estate along the rocky coast, Sophie and Stanley get caught in a rain storm. They end up at an observatory that Stanley had visited as a child. He used to think that the universe was menacing, but after the rain subsides and he and Sophie open the roof up and view the stars, he says that he no longer thinks that way.

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   At a fete that could've been hosted by Gatsby himself, Stanley and Sophie dance, and when they walk together further on in the night, Sophie asks him if he's felt any feelings for her "as a woman." Stanley, who has come to be a great admirer of Sophie's talents as a mystic, and is grateful to her for waking him up to smell the roses, is taken quite aback and admits that he hasn't thought of her that way. Sophie leaves upset, and Stanley is left confused.
   Stanley holds a press conference the next day to tell everyone that he, a man dedicated to revealing frauds of charlatan mystics, has come across the real deal: Sophie. The reporters pepper him with countless of questions, but the grilling for information is interrupted when Stanley receives news that his aunt Vanessa has been in an automobile accident.
   Immediately rushing to the hospital with George, Stanley finds himself alone in the waiting room, finding solace in praying to God for his aunt's recovery. Aghast by that, his rationality returns and he does not finish his prayer. Stanley rejects God, prayers, the supernatural and extended, and sets out once again to prove Sophie a fraud.

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   Stanley returns to the Catlegde estate and greets everyone. Appearing to leave the room, Stanley uses a trick seen in his Wei Ling Soo act, and stays to overhear Sophie and Howard discuss their connivance in what has really been an intricate ruse on Stanley himself. He finds out that Sophie was able to know so much about him and his aunt because she and Howard conspired to fool Stanley. Sophie actually is a fraud, and was quickly discovered by Howard. Rather than expose her and put an end to her trickery, he procured Sophie into helping him one-up his best friend and rival: Stanley.
   Initially angry with Howard and Sophie, Stanley eventually decides to forgive them. While he is talking to his aunt Vanessa, who has recovered fully from the automobile accident and returned to her home by then, Stanley realizes that he's in love with Sophie. So, he breaks off his engagement with his rational and dispassionate fiancee, Olivia, and finds Sophie. He asks her not to marry Brice, but marry him instead. Sophie is taken aback, and finds his thorny proposal supercilious and gauche. She tells him she still plans to marry Brice, as Stanley himself suggested when they first met.

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   Returning to his aunt Vanessa's down in the dumps, Stanley is surprised when Sophie follows him there. He proposes again, she accepts, and they embrace and kiss.

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Magic in the Moonlight is everything anyone one could ever want in one film. From the beautiful imagery to the wonderful actors who brought Woody Allen's exquisite story to life, this film is a vision unlike any other.

Watch the trailer here, and make sure to find Magic in the Moonlight in a cinema near you!