Woody Allen has done it again with this delightfully pleasant philosophical comedy to add to his impressive oeuvre of films. Magic in the Moonlight is a return to his classic neurotic and cynical main character while combing his love of the mystical (and recently, the sentimental) much like he did with Midnight in Paris. I wouldn’t say that I liked this film as much as Midnight or even Blue Jasmine, because I felt that the film lacked the variety of interesting characters that normally gives the film a more in-depth atmosphere, which the protagonists of a Woody Allen film often find themselves in.
The story followed Sidney Crawford (Colin Firth), a successful travelling show magician whose obnoxious manner and rationalist, Nietzsche-inspired thinking defined his thought process and his attitude towards human nature and spirituality of the human race. Prior to concluding a tour of Europe in the mid-1920s (yet another reason for Woody Allen to use a soundtrack consisting primarily of Cole Porter and popular jazz music of the time), he was approached by his fellow magician and friend, who asked him to debunk a psychic, Sophie (played by the radiant Emma Stone) who seemed to have completely won over a wealthy American family with her abilities in Provence.
Being an unrelenting rationalist, Sidney accepted the challenge of exposing the young psychic’s secret, and believed that he would have no trouble in achieving success. His justified persona was immediately tested when Sophie was able to discover his family background and occupation without having any possible way of knowing such facts prior to their meeting. Sidney began to doubt his own beliefs and started to see life in a new and more positive light: a world where mystery and magic are an acceptable presence in the world, and that living without the understanding of how everything works is simply one of the great joys of life. Naturally, in effect, a romance followed as well.
Woody Allen fans will definitely find familiar territory with this film. Trademarks of the Oscar-winning director can be found throughout the film, such as the neurotic, self-loathing protagonist; the intelligent, headstrong female love-interest; Jazz-Age music, quick-witted dialogue, and black humor. As a Woody Allen fan, it was satisfying to see the director returning to the comedy genre with the style that made him a household name in the late 1970s. Unlike his previous film, Blue Jasmine, Magic in the Moonlight did not present a dark subject matter with gloomy prospects in store for the main characters. Also, the dynamics of the plot and the challenges that the protagonists faced were not as complex as those seen in Jasmine. However, Magic was meant to function as a light comedy about the inner mysteries in life, and the joys that they bring, and therefore it did not require the dramatic climax of the tragicomedy as featured in Blue Jasmine.
Overall, Magic in the Moonlight was a thought provoking tale of the rational versus the irrational, the magic versus the reality of life, and the joys we find when refraining from excessive cynicism, or living in constant fear and misery when plagued by thoughts of the inevitability of death.