ByJimmy McNulty, writer at
Jimmy McNulty

"Magic in the Moonlight" has been greatly misunderstood by critics. They write off some of the predictability, coincidences, and clichés as bad writing, but they should remember that Allen is no rookie; it is far too easy to mislabel the film as more simplistic than it actually is. David Denby of The New Yorker says, “As romantic comedy, “Magic in the Moonlight” is formulaic; you can see the plot reversals before they come.” Denby isn’t entirely wrong; the film does try to be formulaic, but it subverts that formula via its self-awareness as formulaic. This is actually much simpler than it sounds. Colin Firth plays Stanley Crawford, a cold-hearted believer of rationalism, who begins to have his heart warmed by the whimsical fortune teller Sophie Baker (Emma Stone). The film chronicles the war within Stanley as he tries to believe that there’s magic in place of rationalism. Scribe and director Woody Allen follows a somewhat typical path through the narrative as Stanley tries to out Sophie Baker as a scam artist; first Sophie Baker falls for Stanley, who, in following the romantic comedy formula, makes an ass of himself and has to work his way back into her good graces. Where the film addresses its own formula is in its use of esoteric words and phrases such as “love” and “love at first sight”; the flippant usage of these words serve the purpose of forcing the viewer into the same circumstance as the character. He believes in cold, hard logic, but is struggling to accept what may be outside of it. The viewer, likewise, struggles with him in accepting "magic" things such as "love at first sight". Allen is reinforcing his themes with his narrative, putting the viewer in exactly the same situation as his character. These phrases are quickly written off as bad dialogue, but in actuality, they are simple reinforcements of the themes; an attempt to force the viewer to struggle with the same things the character is struggling with. Allen wants his hardened, logical viewers to struggle to believe what needs to be believed in to exist: love.


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