Magic in the Moonlight

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(2014) ★★★½

Sky Movies Premiere: PREMIERE Friday 10 July, 10.15am and 10pm

Celebrated Oriental illusionist Wei Ling Soo is in reality stuffed-shirt Englishman Colin Firth, who’s approached backstage at Berlin in 1928 by fellow magician Simon McBurney. He needs Firth’s help in exposing young American clairvoyant Emma Stone, who’s fleecing his wealthy friends on the Côte d’Azur. A pompous perfectionist snob who despises psychics and spiritualists, Firth’s all for it: “What a pestilence they are!” He can’t wait to debunk Stone, so to speak. Yet the longer he looks into her big eyes, the more his certainty is shaken. Woody Allen’s Riviera moonshine may lack the poignant whimsy of Midnight in Paris, but it’s a consistently agreeable diversion. And that, Allen insists, is the most we can hope for in this life. On the other hand, Jacki Weaver, as Miss Stone’s prospective mother-in-law, is an avid believer in the afterlife. She plays devil’s advocate: “Why would God go to so much trouble if everything comes to nothing?” Later, when psychoanalyst Jeremy Shamos describes Firth’s morbidly pessimistic nature, he may as well be talking about the public perecption of Allen. Never the most relaxed of actors, Firth’s perfectly suited to this role. He seems almost at ease portraying this arrogant depressive, snapping off sarcastic remarks and snippy judgments through clenched teeth: “Autographs are for mental defectives!” In a rare moment of vulnerability during a rainstorm, he tells Stone about the observatory in which they take shelter, one he first visited as a child: “The roof opens up and you can see the universe. It’s… menacing.” It’s very funny, the way Firth plays it. Intrigued with magic tricks since childhood, Allen obviously remains as keen on conjuring as he’s always been on trad jazz (Bix Beiderbecke is all over the soundtrack). He played the magician in his Oedipus Wrecks segment of New York Stories and mesmerism played a major part in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, another attractive period piece. Aside from a few minor creaks in the plotting, this one’s let down only by its awfully corny ending.

Certificate: 12
Duration: 94min

Other Showings Time & Date
Sky Movies Premiere Saturday, 11 July at 12:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Saturday, 11 July at 10:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Sunday, 12 July at 10:15AM
Sky Movies Premiere Sunday, 12 July at 10:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Monday, 13 July at 10:15AM
Sky Movies Premiere Monday, 13 July at 10:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Tuesday, 14 July at 12:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Tuesday, 14 July at 10:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Wednesday, 15 July at 10:15AM
Sky Movies Premiere Wednesday, 15 July at 10:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Thursday, 16 July at 10:15AM
Sky Movies Premiere Thursday, 16 July at 10:00PM