You leave Magic in the Moonlight in frustrated disbelief, because you know the plot was good. So why were you checking your watch an hour into it? Why were you calling for the wrap it up box well before the credits rolled?
The non-fatal problems are obvious. There’s no chemistry between Emma Stone (25) and Colin Firth (54). When they kiss in the last seconds of the film, you half expect the shot to be cut before their lips touch because it’s too unbelievable. Firth is embarrassed. He knows his wife is going to rip the piss out of him for it. Stone is a child-woman, of the Ellen Page variety.
Juliet Taylor and Patricia Kerrigan DiCerto did the casting. The support ranges from fine (Simon McBurney and Eileen Atkins) to moche (Hamish Linklater as the billionaire serenading suitor).
But you didn’t come here for Great Acting. You came here to get the ninety minute version of the trailer. The trailer, which looked like a good old fashioned does-what-it-says-on-the-tin-piece of light entertainment, featuring nice looking places and jazz of the Tommy Dorsey variety.
The fatal problem is a relatively rare one: good story, bad script.
The script is bad because most of the scenes are flat. It’s not that they’re superfluous. Each one moves the plot along. But the exchanges in each scene, the dialogue…they all feel like the script is on its second or third rewrite – it’s getting there – but it won’t be perfect till the sixth rewrite. And Woody didn’t wait till he got there. He just started shooting.
Magic in the Moonlight should become an assignment for aspiring screenwriters. Allen – as punishment – should be made to cede all rights to the script, and anyone who wants to can have a go improving it and remaking it. In less than ten years we’ll have it – a perfect Magic in the Moonlight. The funniest damn film you’ve ever seen.