*** out of ****
For better or worse, Woody Allen continues his astonishing pace of one film a year with Magic in the Moonlight, set in the 1920s French Riviera.
Like a lot of Allen’s work, this combines the serious with the comedic as it tells the story of a magician (Colin Firth) with a side business of debunking mystics. A friend challenges Firth to find the trick in a seemingly flawless psychic (Emma Stone) poised to marry into and make a lot of money off of a wealthy family.
Firth’s character is a relentless cynic and skeptic, so much so that he’s abrasive and insulting to people who disagree with him. But Stone slowly wins him over.
Moonlight breaks no new ground, but it does address issues of faith, spirituality, and mortality in accessible, often amusing ways. Most filmmakers are afraid to touch these issues with a ten foot pole (unless they’re specifically making a niche film for a Christian audience), but Allen puts in thoughtful questions about belief. And the resolution of whether or not Stone is a fraud is handled skillfully.
This won’t win any awards, but it’s always refreshing to see a film made for smart people, especially in the dog days of summer.