Writer/Director Woody Allen is not a favorite of mine; in fact, I consider him to be the most overrated of Hollywood's old school. I've never forgiven him for Annie Hall somehow beating out Star Wars for Best Picture in the 1977 Oscars, and his more recent personal choices are personally offensive. Screening his films is equal to the most unpleasant experiences I can consider, right up there with dentist visits and drawing blood. But Magic in the Moonlight is something else, something far better than anything he's ever done, and it's about damn time.
22 Jump Street or Neighbors, and then there's Magic. It's witty and full of one intelligent one-liners that lead up to an old-school Oscar Wilde love story that doesn't need sex or vulgarity to sell its wares. Allen has always had such ability, but his projects have languished, stuck in molasses and the final cut always in need of a serious edit. Not with Magic: Allen produces a mostly compact affair that never lingers, content to lead our well-built cast through his script that's like a light breeze keeping you guessing as to its outcome. When the ending arrives, we can almost forgive Stanley for making what could be a terrible decision, because Allen to this point had filled him with so much comedic arrogance that we can't help feeling that Stanley's come such a long way.
Gangster Squad and The Help performances weren't just happy accidents, her warming smile hiding the scoundrel that Stanley's ready to break down the moment they meet. Linklater is passable riche boor, his rooster crooning and ukulele skills on display while Sophie tries desperately to feign some sort of approval.
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