On the Silver Screen – Magic In The Moonlight

Sep 23, 2014 | Posted by in Movies

Colin Firth and Emma Stone play the leads in Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight, the story of an English magician who tries to expose a young spiritualist as a fraud but finds himself quite taken with her the more he gets to know her.

The story is a very simple one which works in the film’s favour. Much of the narrative focuses on Stanley (Colin Firth) and his attempts to expose Sophie (Emma Stone) as the fraud he is sure she is. Through his attempts they get to know each other and he finds himself irrationally drawn to her for reasons he can’t even articulate. Stanley prides himself on being an intelligent and irrational man who values evidence over belief and speculation so the presence of Sophie really tests his resolve on multiple levels. Firth does a great job of playing the skeptical aspects of his character as he blindly dismisses all claims that psychics and the spirit world are real. Given that his character specialises in creating illusions to fool people he considers himself something of an expert on the subject with the ability to expose anyone claiming to have special powers. Firth plays Stanley as steadfast in his belief that he is right in these instances and unwilling to consider other possibilities in the beginning. As the film progresses his resolve softens and Firth portrays that really well with the uncertainty clear in his performance.

Emma Stone is superb as SophMagic In The Moonlightie, dusting off her trademark quirkiness and innate charm to make the character instantly likeable. She conducts herself with a lot of mystery and a flirtatious attitude that wins over everyone she meets. It’s easy to see why people are rushing to be around her given how likeable a presence she has. Stone plays her very tongue in cheek with a theatrically over the top performance suggesting she is performing for everyone around her. It’s clear that nobody gets to see the real Sophie since she tailors herself to suit the person she’s talking to. She’s also clearly very clever and an expert at reading people.

At the heart of the film is the growing relationship between Stanley and Sophie where Stanley slowly transitions between his disbelief in her legitimacy to sweeping and irrational adoration for her. Sophie clearly admires him from the outset and that only grows the more she gets to know them. Woody Allen’s dialogue is witty and clever as might be expected and the way the two characters interact is always clever and often hilarious. I especially liked how Stanley would often casually insult Sophie probably in an attempt to convince himself that he isn’t falling for her. Sophie proves herself to be an effective foil for him always having an equally witty and subtly condescending retort in response. The actors have amazing chemistry which helps their characters work really well together.

Stanley’s relationship with his Aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins) is also done really well. Vanessa clearly understands Stanley and is adept at manipulating him to admit things that even he is ignorant of. There’s an especially effective scene where she simply agrees with him until the sheer weight of his “rational” argument crashes in on itself to hilarious results.

My main issues with the film stem from how quickly things seem to happen. Stanley goes from being completely skeptical to being entirely convinced by Sophie in what appears to be a second as well as other really quick changes in his conclusions. I would have liked these realisations to be done a bit more gradually to make these moments seem a little less awkward.

  • 7/10
    Magic In The Moonlight - 7/10


A very charming and funny film with a really cleverly written relationship between the two leads. Colin Firth and Emma Stone both do an excellent job playing their characters and building the relationship slowly. Some of Stanley’s realisations feel a little abrupt but a funny script and clever dialogue help make up for these shortcomings.