By Kate Smith
24th August 2014

I’m not a Woody Allen fan, but I have to admit, he can make a good movie when he wants to. His latest film is ‘Magic in the Moonlight’, but is it one of the better ones?

In 1920s Europe, Stanley (Colin Firth) is a famous and respected illusionist and debunker of frauds, who is engaged by his friend Howard (Simon McBurney, ‘The Last King of Scotland’) to unmask clairvoyant Sophie (Emma Stone). Howard suspects Sophie of hoodwinking a wealthy family into believing she can communicate with their deceased patriarch. Stanley accompanies Howard to the family’s estate in the south of France, where he expects to expose Sophie immediately - but as she performs numerous unexplained feats, Stanley begins to question his entire philosophy.

Colin Firth is brilliant, as usual. The arrogant and abrasive magician Stanley is brought wonderfully to life by Firth, who returns to classic, witty, bang-on, form. Emma Stone isn’t too bad herself, infusing Sophie with a kind of confident vulnerability. At first glance, any possible romance between these two seems far-fetched and kitsch, especially considering Stanley’s derisive view of Sophie, but somehow they make it believable.


The writing is great, full of snappy lines and witty repartee, delivered very well by both Firth and Stone, with some wonderful support from McBurney as Stanley’s colleague and friend Howard. Jackie Weaver is almost unrecognisable, but once you know it’s her, you realise just how versatile (and hilarious) this Aussie actress can be. Eileen Atkins as Stanley’s Aunt Vanessa is lovely as a foil to Firth’s cynical magician.

As the story moves along, you could be forgiven for thinking it was rushing, with Stanley falling head-over-heels for the line Sophie’s spinning. You’d be right, if the story was headed in the direction the standard Hollywood rom-com would take it. But ‘Magic in the Moonlight’ isn’t just about the romance between Stanley and Sophie, because for much of the film, there isn’t any romance at all. The unmasking of the real con artist is brilliantly done, if a little predictable, but it’s the outcome of the potential relationship between Stanley and Sophie that will keep you guessing to the end.

The writing is great, full of snappy lines and witty repartee, delivered very well by both Firth and Stone.

Lavish costumes and sets - including genuine southern France locations - set a beautiful tone for the entire film. The interesting use of soft focus and other vintage touches add an element of nostalgia that shouldn’t be underestimated. Colour is used to full advantage, with the increase in palette highlighting Stanley’s new faith in the supernatural. My only complaint is that there are some short scenes that seem a little abrupt; the film feels slightly like a quality stage production that hasn’t quite embraced the freedoms of the film format.

If you’re looking for a charming, entertaining and rather British film, ‘Magic in the Moonlight’ ticks all the boxes, and even adds a few more. It’s thoroughly enjoyable and I highly recommend it.

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