Magic in the Moonlight

If Woody Allen can continue to work and receive praise in the United States, why can’t Roman Polanski? After all, Polanski’s alleged involvement with a “girl” followed the death of his pregnant wife at the hands of the Manson gang. Who deserves more consideration?

Magic in the MoonlightBut for the spectacular scenery in Southern France and the performances by Emma Stone and Colin Firth, Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight would have been uncomfortably creepy. Like it or not, the film’s premise seemed a bit sordid in that it reflected Mr. Allen’s own life.

While this whole issue was raised last year when Allen was blasted by Mia Farrow for his scandalous relationship with his step-daughter, that is a subject of controversy that deservedly will never die. Fortunately for Woody, he continues to live and thrive in New York, where he can count on praise from every artistic quarter.

Yet Woody can run, but he can’t hide, and there is a reason why nearly all of his films die at the box office. While there are some biting, very clever moments in Magic in the Moonlight’s script, the film can’t escape the uncomfortable feeling that it was little more than a romantic revisionist history of the Woodman’s own life.

Stated briefly, Mr. Firth plays Stanley, a very egotistical, overbearing magician masquerading as an old Chinese Mandarin in Europe in 1928. About to leave on a trip to the Galapagos with his fiancée, he is convinced by a friend to take a short trip to the Provence region of France to debunk a young American clairvoyant spinning her magic in an attempt to sink her tentacles into a wealthy local family.

Ms. Stone is the American spiritualist, a young girl who grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She travels with her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) as an escort, and Firth runs immediately into an emotional roadblock when he watches her perform.

What is so unnerving about the film is that Ms. Stone looks like the spitting image of a young Diane Keaton. It’s like a bizarre trip back to parts of the legendary Annie Hall (1977), and we all know the relationship Mr. Allen had with his young co-star.

While Firth considers Stone to be a fake, his dedication to the truth fades as he ponders her ability to help a monstrously wealthy widow (Jacki Weaver) communicate with her deceased husband in a séance. In addition, if she is a fraud how can she make a candle sitting on the table float in the air? The movie focuses on a simple question, who’s conning who?

If I seem a bit cynical in this review, consider the fact that Firth pursues his attraction to Stone while considering abandoning his engagement to an intelligent woman who just happens to be near his own age. Goodbye Ms. Farrow, and enjoy your trip to the Galapagos.