Woody Allen has an old soul, and a huge hunk of that soul resides, lusciously pampered, in the pretax days of the 1920’s; a hedonistic, halcyon “lost generation” populated by Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his mercurial wife Zelda, Ernest Hemmingway, his mountainous angst; days and evenings saturated by libations of all hues and smoke, billows and billows of the nasty stuff perfumed every venue.
Musical compositions by the masters of melodies: Cole Porter, Ravel, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Rogers & Hart bestow “Magic in the Moonlight” with blithe, captivating resonance; the empathetic, hypnotic allure of a genuine romantic comedy.
Devastatingly distinguished Colin Firth imbues, “Wei Ling Soo/Stanley Crawford” with biting, misanthropic tirades directed at all who ventured into range of his forked tongue; spewing Shakespeare and Nietzsche with stinging acerbity; he is an illusionist, magician of impeccable renown, solicited by fellow magician “Howard” (Simon McBurney) to unmask fraudulent “Sophie” a “Cassandra” with psychic vibrations; Emma Stone, too childlike, vastly younger than Firth/Stanley (possible autobiographical reference) is the mystic; actors Rosamund Pike or Kiera Knightly would have been better suited for the role.
Allen’s writing in tandem with Firth’s (an imagined doppelganger for Woody) indefatigable skills are a magical pairing. Stanley’s transitions, refreshingly real, intriguingly entertaining, as his cockiness, intransigent cynicism give way to unfamiliar, lighthearted happiness. Wonderful, Eileen Atkins as Stanley’s “Aunt Vanessa”, clearly outshines women decades her junior; she simultaneously disparages and encourages Stanley’s haughty intellectualism.
Skip the metaphysical babble, luxuriate in the landscape of Cote d’Azur and the music, which as Nietzsche believed made life worth the effort.