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Laramie Movie Scope:
Magic in the Moonlight

Another romantic comedy gem from Woody Allen

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 24, 2015 -- Like fine wine, Woody Allen seems to get better with age. Since his comeback in this genre with “Bullets Over Broadway” (1994) and “Mighty Aphrodite” (1995), he's had some financial and artistic success in this genre over the years, highlighted, in recent years at least, by “Midnight in Paris” in 2011.

This film reminds me of Woody's best romantic comedies. It also reminds me of “Pride and Prejudice” (1995) because Colin Firth stars in this film, playing a character very much like Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy in this film. Firth was the quintessential Mr. Darcy in the definitive 1995 “Pride and Prejudice” miniseries. This time around, he plays the Darcy-like Stanley Crawford, a magician with the stage name of Wei Ling Soo. The year is 1928.

Crawford, like his fellow magician, Harry Houdini, is famous for exposing fake spiritualists and mediums. He is persuaded by his old (and only) friend, Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney of “The Theory of Everything”) who is also an illusionist, to travel from London to the south of France to expose a spiritualist as a phony and save a wealthy family from being swindled. While there, he takes the opportunity to visit his favorite aunt, Vanessa (Eileen Atkins of “Beautiful Creatures”) who lives nearby.

Adopting a fake name, the prickly, sarcastic Crawford is determined to prove the medium, Sophie (Emma Stone of “Birdman”) is a fake, but she tells him things she should not be able to know about himself and about Aunt Vanessa. Soon, Sophie has Crawford convinced she is the real thing. Crawford, who has always believed in science and rationality, suddenly gets a new lease on life. Maybe there is magic. Maybe there is a God. Maybe there is life after death. Maybe life does have meaning after all.

Crawford's newfound faith is put to the test when Aunt Vanessa is seriously injured and may die. In the hospital waiting room, Crawford prays to the god he didn't believe in before and asks for help. Abruptly, he realizes this is silly and has his own revelation about what is really going on.

Crawford discovers that his new lease on life is really due to falling in love with Sophie, and that is a kind of real magic. There is a wonderful conversation between Crawford and Aunt Vanessa in which she gently allows him to discover the truth about his feelings for Sophie. The problem is that Crawford is terrible at romance and he is 28 years older than Sophie, who is considering the proposal of a handsome young man who is very wealthy (played by Hamish Linklater).

This is a very unlikely romance, but love is not logical, a fact that Woody Allen has often depicted in his comedies. This is a funny romantic comedy with some feeling. It is witty, well-written, well-acted and well-directed. The characters are interesting and complicated. I'm surprised so many of my fellow critics didn't like this film. It is so much better than most comedies made nowadays, you'd think it would get a bit more love. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)