Magic in the Moonlight by Woody Allen

Mr. Allen continues his romantic European streak with Magic in the Moonlight, a funny, beautiful and thoughtful comedy about the nature of reality and the dueling principles of reason/fatih, loyalty/betrayal and magic/logic. Happily there is no one answer as many of the characters move (stylishly) through that spectrum, from belief to disbelief, and back again. The director has visited magic and its attendant fantasies before, both in his writing and film work, but in this film he furthers the connections between magic and his other recurring themes: love, death, and the bourgeois expectations of marriage. In the character of Aunt Vanessa, Eileen Atkins portrays the happy middle, a woman who is content with ambiguity and agreeably lives in a world where reason, God, the afterlife, magic, charlatanism, science, and love can all co-exist peacefully. The film is cast well, but special note must be made of the perfect Eileen Atkins, who delivers the lines so perfectly and naturally that you wonder why she isn’t in all of Allen’s films; Jeremy Shamos, who plays George, a psychoanalyst who delights in macabre personalities; and, Colin Firth, who mixes a little bit of Mr. Darcy with a neurotic Allen-esque persona to portray a magician who doesn’t believe in the magic of love and faith. I was also struck by how wonderfully the 1920s suits Mr. Allen: the music (oh, those clarinets!), the popularity of exotic magic acts, Freud, American expatriates searching for meaning, mini-revolutions in social norms, and of course, beautiful well-to-do folks in their element. There is a certain joy to this film (even as it meanders toward mortality toward the end) that characterizes some of his most recent films, a joy which doesn’t deter his exploration of the meaning of life and the certainty of death.

Magic in the Moonlight, dir. Woody Allen, 90 min. Gravier Productions Inc., et al., 2014.

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