Saturday, October 11, 2014

Time Out for Magic

Emma Stone, Colin Firth

I went to the movies last night. Having been warned by lukewarm reviews that Woody Allen's latest, Magic in the Moonlight, was wan and unsatisfying, I took a chance and found out for myself--that it is quite the opposite. From the beginning it was magical, intriguing, transporting, and ultimately left everybody in the audience delighted. Including me.

Some critics carped that Allen has been over these themes too many times. Faith vs. the lack of it, spirit vs. reason, magic vs. humbug. I say, keep trying, Mr. Allen. and with fare such as this we all may be able to find answers together.

One of the complaints is that Colin Firth and Emma Stone are mismatched for a romantic comedy. Some say he's just too old (I suspect those who wrote that are male), others that the chemistry between the pair is lacking. It may have seemed so because Firth's character is resistant to falling in love, in fact, he doesn't seem to consider its possibility until irrationality takes over his skeptical mind. As always, he is an extremely appealing actor, particularly in his stolid clumsiness. When he actually gets to a proposal of marriage it is reminiscent of the one he bumbled through in his portrayal of Mr. Darcy all those years ago. Is that performance so long in the past that we don't recall his perfection? How he almost singlehandedly creative an avalanche of attention to not only Pride and Prejudice but all of the works of Jane Austen? He does it again here in a thoroughly captivating scene, one that provides some of the few laughs in the film. There are elements of Rex Harrison as Prof. Higgins, wrestling with the irrationality of even considering romance as redemption. He is one of the best actors of his generation.

Emma Stone, I am uneasy saying, reminded me of young Mia Farrow here. She seems frail and waiflike, but as if she is working at it, where with Farrow it was second nature. But she pulls it off and the two of them kept me on edge wondering whether or not, or if.

The scene between Firth and Eileen Atkins, playing his wise and experienced aunt, was a masterpiece of English restraint and playing of the subtext. Like a scene from Oscar Wilde--without the puns and built-in laughs--they talked around a subject until he was led to the unavoidable conclusion that she had never once mentioned. 

The settings, costumes and cinematography must be mentioned. It is on a par with Vicki Cristina Barcelona for capturing the look and color of the place. As always in Allen flicks, a soup├žon of sprightly love songs from the period adds atmosphere.

This is escapist fare worth watching, with thoughts to think on love, death, philosophy, and magic. If you're in the Rosendale/New Paltz/Kingston area, it will run at The Rosendale again tonight at 5 and 7:15, Sunday and Monday nights at 7:15. 


  1. Mary Lois, this is a great review, so well written! You've made me want to see this Woody Allen movie. I do like Colin Firth, so even if I don't enjoy the movie as much as you did, he will be reason enough to watch it! With Woody you never know if you'll wind up applauding or shaking your head when the closing credits roll. I hope that I'll like it as much as you do.

  2. I hope you will too. Let me know.

  3. finkenberg61@yahoo.comOctober 27, 2014 at 5:13 AM

    I came across your blog and find it very interesting. I loved Magic in the Moonlight too. I think the bad reviews are nothing more than a backlash against against Allen because of his admittedly creepy personal life and an anti Colin Firth backlash since he won the Oscar for the Kings Speech. Furthermore, the almost exclusively male reviews don't get it - Colin Firth is sexy, gorgeous and ridiculously talented. We should all look at good as him at his age. There was intense chemistry between him and Stone. No woman, ages 20 to 60 are going to throw him out of bed. This was a funny witty and enjoyable film. By the way, my husband is a third generation Hobokenite. My in laws are out of central Hoboken casting and of course live rent subsidized in Marine View Plaza (they do deserve it having lived in Hoboken their entire lives). Its not only my husband's parents, its my neice, her husband and baby, my sister in law and her son. The whole family except us live in one or the two buildings! They all work for the City of Hoboken. Did you ever see the very fine John Sayles film Hudson City, which really is about a family from Hoboken. He is a very fine filmmaker (Lone Star and Matawan and Nine Men Out are must sees). Sayles has been living in Hoboken for 30 years at least - in the beginning of gentrification. You are missing nothing leaving Hoboken. Its just a college dorm with puking suburbanites in training. Not like Billyburg - just those waiting to move to the burbs. Good for you that you moved for space and fresh air.

    1. So glad you found this blog, Finkenberg! I wish we had met when I lived in Hoboken. Hope you read my posts on that blog ( too. Feel free to comment whenever you're inclined.