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Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight' feels like quaint sleight of hand

“Magic in the Moonlight” is about pride, manipulation and the gulf between your head and your heart. Yet with all that great stuff to work with, Woody Allen’s latest film could have used a little more magic.
Josh Terry, Deseret News Modified: August 14, 2014 at 9:21 pm •  Published: August 15, 2014
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Magic in the Moonlight” is about pride, manipulation and the gulf between your head and your heart. Yet with all that great stuff to work with, Woody Allen’s latest film could have used a little more magic.

The film is a period piece, set in the late ‘20s in the south of France. Stanley (Colin Firth), a famous magician who performs under the stage name Wei Ling Soo, is recruited to debunk a spiritualist named Sophie (Emma Stone) who has been divining her way through Europe to great financial success. Certainly, as a master of illusion, Stanley can pull the rug out from under her scam.

Unfortunately, the veteran discovers two problems. First, Sophie seems to be very good at what she does and may actually be the real thing. Second, Sophie’s youthful charms quickly set to work on Stanley’s heart, making a mess of the prideful magician’s best reason and logic.

On one level, “Magic in the Moonlight” is a romance, and a May-December one at that, given the 28-year age gap between the leads. Stanley and Sophie begin spending lots of time together, which gives Allen ample opportunity to showcase the film’s beautiful period setting. But thematically, “Magic” is trying to mine that territory where men of science butt heads with men of faith.

Confronted with the unexplainable, Stanley must in turn confront his own beliefs. All his life he’s played the cynic, but now he must consider the possibility we all hate: that we might be wrong about something. His world has been turned upside down, but luckily he has his wise Aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins) around to guide him through his crisis.

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