Thursday, September 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Review: Allen casts a limp spell in ‘Magic’

By
From page B2 | July 25, 2014 |

Woody Allen’s late period has been defined by a quality you wouldn’t have expected from the man who produced the inspired chaos of “Bananas” or the Fellini-esque carnival of “Stardust Memories”: tidiness.

For years now, Allen’s films have been light farces (“Midnight in Paris,” ”Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) or neatly structured parables (“Match Point,” ”Blue Jasmine”). They breeze in innocuously in the summer, promising pleasant entertainment and not much more.

“Like drinking lemonade” is how Allen has described his escapist aims for his movies. His “Magic in the Moonlight,” a romantic comedy bathed in the sunset glow of the French Riviera and starring two of the more effervescent faces in movies — Colin Firth and Emma Stone — is, no doubt, sweetly sugary — if ultimately flat — stuff.

The film begins in 1928 Berlin with the chaotic backstage life of a haughty, grouchy Chinese illusionist, Wei Ling Soo, played by the magician Stanley Crawford (Firth). It’s a promising start: Here is Firth, in regal, oriental garb and long mustache, disparaging autographs as “for mental defectives.”

More of this, and “Magic in the Moonlight” could have been a very funny movie. But Wei Ling Soo doesn’t again perform, and instead the rest of the film feels oddly missing the jokes it seems built to convey. Crawford — a self-described “rational man” who believes in his art, not in actual magic — sets off to the South of France to unmask a medium, Sophie Baker (Stone), gaining renown for her prescient “mental impressions.”

They meet at the sumptuous Cote d’Azur home of the Catledge family, whose rich bachelor Brice (Hamish Linklater) swoons unapologetically for Sophie. A dance of distrust begins between the cocksure Crawford and the lithe, charming Sophie across a vivid, widescreen backdrop of cars, clothes and coastline.

Crawford, whose fiancee hasn’t joined him on the trip, is both supremely confident in his realistic worldview (Nietzsche, he says, resolved “the God problem rather convincingly”) and abundantly unhappy. Audiences will surely see where the film is going as it sets up a quite rigidly explored dichotomy between blithe believing and scientific certainty.

It’s an argument for illusion in our lives, no matter how fraudulent; for love, no matter how illogical. “Magic in the Moonlight” is a disbeliever’s earnest plea to believe.

These are, of course, ideas Allen has long explored, and “Magic in the Moonlight” often feels like the kind of tidy New Yorker humor story the filmmaker might pen. Even with bright performances and lively chemistry between Stone and Firth, the movie is stale with the fixed rhythm of the written word, not alive to its images, despite the rich setting. (A quick aside: Is it possible to not have good on-screen chemistry with Stone? From Ryan Gosling to Spider-Man, she bewitches everyone.)

Allen is in complete control of the film, both its comic pacing and its philosophical quandary. But perhaps that’s the problem: Like Crawford, “Magic in the Moonlight” needs to be less in control of itself. The film doesn’t believe in magic enough.

“Magic in the Moonlight,” a Sony Pictures Classics release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout.” Running time: 100 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

 

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Suisun council candidates all voice business-friendly platforms

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Theatre DeVille in Vacaville closes

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Focus on school attendance now, always

By Mayrene Bates | From Page: A2

 
Pepperbelly’s for sale

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

Jury selection begins in 2011 Fairfield murder trial

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

 
Seniors get help at Kroc Center health fair

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Drug court success stories tell their tales

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Suisun City Senior Center seeks holiday donations

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Lunafest returns to Fairfield in November

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Weather for Sept. 18, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B10

 
Fairfield police log: Sept. 16, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Suisun City police log: Sept. 16, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
.

US / World

Emotions mount on final day of Scottish campaign

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
More than 2,000 homes threatened in California fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Maps provide early warning of California fire risk

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
School district police stock up free military gear

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

NASA’s Maven spacecraft reaches Mars this weekend

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
US military role in Iraq raises combat questions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Police: Ambush suspect was military re-enactor

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
House grudgingly approves arms for Syrian rebels

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Ex-VA doctor: Phoenix report a ‘whitewash’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Doctor says Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has cancer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

US scientist: Ebola unlikely to become airborne

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Liberia president praises US for Ebola help pledge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Obama reaffirms opposition to US combat in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
AP Interview: Iraq premier says no foreign troops

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

.

Opinion

Give new crime report a chance

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A7

 
Why Obama needs congressional authority to wage war

By Albert R. Hunt | From Page: A7

Democrats shouldn’t rely on pot and gay marriage

By Ramesh Ponnuru | From Page: A7

 
Homeless find welcome in Vallejo

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7

 
.

Living

Today in History: Sept. 18, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Sept. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

My brother fails to make an effort to when it comes to my kids

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes: Sept. 18, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Directors Guild finds TV diversity hiring stalled

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

U2 returns to iTunes Top 100 — 26 times

By Los Angeles Times | From Page: B4

 
.

Sports

Rodriguez gets 1st MEL soccer win since return to league

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Giants snap tie in 9th, beat Arizona to narrow gap in West to 2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
49ers’ Kaepernick fined for inappropriate language

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Sharks sign D Braun to 5-year, $19 M extension

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rockets acquire Jason Terry, picks from Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Panthers remove DE Greg Hardy from active roster

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Barry Bonds appeal heads back to court

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NFL, union agree to new drug policy, HGH testing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Raiders rookie Derek Carr focuses on job at hand

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Pegulas’ bid to buy Bills OK’d by NFL committee

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
FSU benches Winston for 1st half of Clemson game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Umpire West suspended 1 game for grabbing jersey

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
After making ‘mistake,’ Vikings bench RB Peterson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

Brown signs ride-sharing insurance legislation

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
US homebuilder confidence soars in September

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Anthem, hospitals join to offer new insurance plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Drag queens dress down Facebook over names

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Wells Fargo pays $290,000 in sex harassment case

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Fed signals plan to keep key rate at record low

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

Margaret King

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9