Woody Allen is certainly a fan of using some of Europe’s most beautiful towns—London, Barcelona, Rome, Paris—as a backdrop for his films these days, and who can blame him?
The latest in this postcard-perfect series, “Magic in the Moonlight,” whisks us away to the South of France circa 1928 in a flurry of hot jazz, Gatsby-esque finery, and—yes—a bit of magic.
Colin Firth stars as Stanley, a self-proclaimed man of reason who spends his days debunking the work of fraudulent mystics, and his nights entrancing audiences as the world-renowned magician Wei Ling Soo. Magic may be Stanley’s trade, but he staunchly opposes any notion of a metaphysical world, and takes comfort in knowing that his tricks are born from years of hard work and practice. He detests the occult and delights in denouncing those who market it as phonies. When Stanley’s childhood friend and fellow magician, Howard (Simon McBurney), approaches him after a show one evening with an opportunity expose a young mystic as a fake, Stanley jumps at the opportunity, and the two set off for the Côte d’Azur to find her. As it turns out, the magician isn’t quite as prepared as he expected for the bright eyed, spunky Sophie Baker (Emma Stone) who has captured the hearts of the wealthy American family hosting her in France. Her startlingly keen skills as a spiritualist may prove too much for even Stanley to debunk.
It is clear from the get go that Firth, as protagonist, represents the film’s classic, neurotic Woody Allen figure. The dashing Englishman seems like an odd fit at first to play an anxious misanthrope, but as he settles into the role, Firth is a delight to watch, especially as he delivers some of Allen’s best one-liners. It helps also that he has such an enigmatic costar in Stone; the comedic chemistry between the two crackles. Eileen Atkins is excellent as Stanley’s sharp-tongued Aunt Vanessa, as is Hamish Linklater as Brice, the wealthy young bachelor pining desperately after Sophie.
Magic in the Moonlight opens in theaters this Friday, July 25.