★★ | Magic In The Moonlight
Within a few minutes after the opening of this movie… Woody Allen’s 46th, and probably one of his most tedious … it is very obvious that the magic in the title refers strictly to the staged tricks created by the two leading characters and not to the film itself.
Allen’s very thin story, set in Europe some time between the two World Wars, is about a famous English professional illusionist who’s stage persona is a very crass Chinaman complete with Fu Manchu moustache (which I’m guessing that Allen must have considered was not racially offensive). Wei Ling Soo aka Stanley is recruited by his best friend Howard to unmask an American psychic who he believes is faking her way into the bosom of a wealthy American Family vacationing in their chateau on the French Riviera. Sophie is aided and abetted by her scheming mother in order to get their hands on some of their fortune and marry the gormless heir of the family.
It turns out she really is a fraud but for totally different reasons than the ones that we expect, but by the time that the pompous sarcastic Stanley has uncovered this, we have lost all interest anyway. Forget the sleight of hand tricks he plays, as its the plot that is so slight to the point of being so transparently obvious.
Cold-hearted cynical Stanley with his very unemotional fiance back in London naturally falls in love with Sophie but as she is practically 30 years younger, we are as uncomfortable about this age-inappropriate romance as Stanley awkwardly appears to be as well.
Colin Firth makes heavy going of his portrayal of Stanley, and a radiant looking Emma Stone fares little better in this very stilted script that gives neither of them much of a chance to shine. The only cast member that relieved the fast encroaching boredom was the wonderful Eileen Aitkens as Stanley’s Aunt, even though her part was very small.
Kudos though for the stunning period costumes and very glorious sets and locations which at least gave us something pretty to look at, but not enough to stop me nodding off from time to time.
P.S. Look closely in the scene set in a Jazz Club for the fleeting glance of the singer who is none other than the fabulous Ute Lemper.