A film: Magic in the Moonlight, Woody Allen

by Jennifer Bryce

Only Woody Allen could get away with this film, which wallows in the 1920s. 1928, to be precise. It has almost Great Gatsby-ish extravagance; with no worries about money the main characters race off to balls, parties or to visit Aunt Vanessa around winding seaside roads in a 1920s Alfa Romeo. The film focuses on the 1920s interest in clairvoyance.

A conjuror, Wei Ling Soo (played by Colin Firth), whose popular feats open the film, is understandably skeptical about clairvoyance. He is actually an extremely arrogant Englishman, Stanley Crawford. His school friend, aware of his strong skepticism, encourages him to try to uncover the deception of a beautiful young clairvoyant (Sophie), played by Emma Stone. For some extraordinary reason Sophie is interested in accompanying Stanley to visit his aunt. As they stare into the moonlight from a conveniently placed observatory – when the Alfa has a spot of bother on the coastal road and there is a thunderstorm – they start to fall in love. Layers of arrogance and self belief need to be peeled away before Stanley acknowledges that he loves Sophie. And by falling in love (although he already has a ‘very suitable’ relationship with another woman) he realises that there are some things that transcend his world of assured positive scientific fact. Aunt Vanessa, who seems to be a mother figure for Stanley, engineers things so that the two are brought together in the nick of time, just before Sophie succumbs to marrying her ukulele-playing suitor.

Like all good plots there is a twist. The school friend has played a trick on Stanley and has been in cahoots with Sophie making her appear to Stanley, for once, a believable and indeed miraculous clairvoyant. Stanley discovers this deception near the end of the film, but it makes no difference to his feelings for her.

Seems bland? Yes. But I was transported for the whole film.

The film opens with ‘You do something to me’ (Cole Porter) – we hear plenty of it; ‘you have the power to hypnotise me’, ‘that voodoo that you do so well’. Woody Allen always seems to feature a favourite song in his films. Ah! Was this song the inspiration for the film? There were many other well known 1920s songs in the film, but I went away with You do something to me . . . running through my head. The film gently reminds us that love is a kind of magic. Let’s hope that with Internet dating and social media we are not forgetting the magic of love.