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"Magic in the Moonlight": Woody Allen's Latest Tries to Catch a Lovely Young Psychic in the Act 

Wednesday, Jul 23 2014

Magic in the Moonlight is Woody Allen's film product for 2014. Stanley (Colin Firth) is an arrogant British stage magician in 1928 who, much like the recently deceased (but never mentioned) Harry Houdini, moonlights in exposing fake spiritualists. His fellow conjuror Howard (Simon McBurney) invites Stanley to spend an indefinite amount of time in the opulent French home of the Catledge family in order to debunk spunky young American clairvoyant Sophie (Emma Stone), whom Howard says is bilking the Catledges out of their fortune with claims that she can contact the matriarch's late husband. Magic in the Moonlight's tone is much lighter than last year's emotionally harrowing Blue Jasmine — if anything, it has hints of 1982's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy — and it also helps that the actors seem much more comfortable in their roles. Maybe it's because the Brits have more theater training and thus more experience with cold reading, but there's less of the flailing and awkward groping for under-rehearsed dialogue so prevalent in Allen's post-'90s work. (There's even some editing during one-on-one conversations!) And while there's the extreme age difference between Firth and Stone that we tend to associate, uncomfortably, with Allen, Magic in the Moonlight's setting at least makes his standard needle-drop soundtrack culled from his record collection more appropriate than usual.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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