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Yes No Maybe So: "Magic in the Moonlight"

Another year, another Woody Allen. Same as it ever was. Coming off another professional high Blue Jasmine but a personal low, will people turn out? Woody films are always hard to predict, reception wise both critically and at the box office (I'm still so alarmed at how successful To Rome With Love was despite being so so terrible), from abject failures to Oscar nominees. But let's talk about Magic in the Moonlight ... or at least our futurist perception of it based on its new trailer. 

The Yes No Maybe So™ breakdown is after the jump...

• If they weren't such a mismatched pair age-wise, Colin Firth and Emma Stone would seem like ideal screen partners since they both have such effortless romantic charisma and light touch comic gifts.
• The supporting cast: Eileen Atkins, Marcia Gay Harden, AND Jacki Weaver? Abundance! Glorious abundance. 
• And apart from Marcia Gay, Eileen & Jacki seem to have things to do as a chill agnostic...

You've always been so certain about the world and I've always tried to teach you that we don't know..."

And as a true believer. Don't you just ♥ Jacki's true believer face?

• the sun-kissed photography (via Oscar nominee Darius Khondji of Evita fame on his fourth Woody Allen picture) is highly welcome 
• Those opening few seconds when the premise is laid out and Colin Firth in yellowface theatrical overkill all scream rich comic possibilities ahead...

• ...but, um, where are the jokes?
• Are there any jokes in this trailer or did I just miss them from not laughing?
• You guys. How to put this? I love period spiritualism in movies -- seances, charlatans, psychics, and magicians -- EXCEPT WHEN WOODY DOES IT. I think this not-quite trope but recurring screenplay toy of his results in some of his worst films: At various times the trailer recalls You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (I'd rather not), The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (curse is right!) and Scoop (the least of the offenders but still so unsubstantial). 
• At first glance this movie seems like it might vaporize into thin air... to never be thought of again

• As per usual Woody has no trouble snagging stars for his projects though I continue to wish he'd stick to a common group like he used to because the concept of a theatrical troupe of players who directors shuffle into new roles is so wonderful.  For what it's worth, Emma Stone will be back for a second round next year. (Cue: infinite pieces about how she's his new post-Scarlett muse -- ugh. I say you have to get at least 3 pictures behind you, or 2 masterpieces, before you can qualify as such). Though I loved Emma at first (she's so superlative in Easy A) her career since has been shockingly lackluster as if she's modelling it on Scarlett Johansson or Rachel McAdams after their initial breakthroughs... though sometimes it does take time for actors to find their place in the scheme of things. I'm surprised to find myself more interested in how well Colin Firth does here, since he does period well and he's an atypical choice for the Woody surrogate in that he has such effortless leading man charm and rarely seems like the "anxious" type. 
• That final exchange in the observation booth where the night sky is either "menacing" (him) or "romantic" (her) also screams rich possibilities...  



...though this trailer neither sells me on any sort of (fraudulent) menace or (transcendent) romance. So I'm torn.

I'm a 'maybe so' though it's a Woody Allen so I'll see it. I'm a completist, which causes me no end of suffering (see also: To Rome With Love). Are you a Yes a No or a Maybe So?

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Reader Comments (27)

Looks incredibly mediocre to me. But I love the cast so I will obviously see it.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

I was secretly hoping for a really good part (and Oscar chances) for Jacki Weaver, soo... eh. Unless she turns out to be the standout supporting player, which it kinda looks like, although like you said, the whole trailer is sorta missing jokes, so... Maybe So based on the fact that I want to see it for Jacki Weaver but the trailer is pretty mediocre.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

I'm a maybe leaning toward a yes. Based on Woody's track record, he's due for a bad film coming off of Blue Jasmine last year, but it would be hard for me to pass up this cast. I love when Colin Firth gets cast as a romantic leading man (such a great choice for Valmont over John Malkovich in Dangerous Liasons) and this seems like a perfect way to utilize Stone's effortless likability.

Although I know this dips into body-shaming, I also have to say how disappointed I am that Stone seems to have fallen prey to Hollywood's ridiculous body standards for women. She looks like she's wasting away when she was perfectly fine before.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Looks awesome to me. Like the topic and both leads. It's woody, so why not? At least a Maybe So.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterT-Bone

Yes, because it's Woody, and because by mid-July I suspect I will be very much in the mood for a light romantic comedy set in 1920s France.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Who am I kidding? I'll be there no matter what.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

The same as others say above, I see every Woody Allen film, but the truth is that the older I get the more creepy I find the age difference thing. And the trailer didn't do anything for me. I guess is more Midnight in Paris than Blue Jasmine.

Glad to see Hamish Linkater outside The Crazy Ones where he is very often the MVP in a family show that otherwise is just tailor made for Robin Williams.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

Emma Stone seemed to have a different accent in each scene.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBenji

Yes for me. Looked fun.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis


Midnight in Paris is not a lesser movie to Blue Jasmine. It's the best of contemporary lightweight Woody. And Jasmine works because Blanchett willed it so.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

It looks quite pleasant - like a perfect film for a really hot day when you're in need of air conditioning. And it has a great cast, so unless the reviews are atrocious, I will likely see it. The trailer didn't completely sell me, but there's enough there to intrigue.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I wish he'd have picked someone other than Emma Stone (I agree on the accents). But he's finally working with Marcia Gay Harden, and Firth looks well-cast after a series of really bland films for him. So yes.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I wish they would do a story of the friendship and feud of houdini and arthur conan doyle which this story reminds me very much of. Conan Doyle was a very big spiritualist and believed in the after life where houdini was famous for debunking mediums. The topic interests me but thats cause i come from a magic background. My father is a magician on the side and i grew up with it though i kinda hate but respectfully hate it.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Josh - that's funny. I just so a play about that very topic here in NYC

May 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Looks pretty but I doubt I'll ever like a Woody Allen film again. Maybe if Eileen Atkins had a bigger role..

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

It's Woody, so it's a less a "will I see it?" (I will) and more a theater vs. Netflix? I'll need reviews to make that decision, though I want to love it as I heart Emma Stone and don't want her to turn into Emily Blunt.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Josh: That's a significant mis-representation. Conan Doyle had faith in every medium, whether or not they were "real". Houdini actually WANTED to find a, to use a Hellboy character as an example, Johann Kraus and didn't care who he debunked in his hunt. His wife continued that hunt after his death with a piece of information only she and Houdini ever knew. She never found anyone who would satisfy that standard.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I just can't with Emma Stone. Something happened to me that morning when she read the nominations with Seth McFarlane in non-alphabetical order and tried to joke around, and I haven't been able to move past it. It's totally me, not her, but still I can't.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Volvagia: what do you mean misrepresentation. I just don't know what i said was different than your response.

Nathaniel: What play? i would love to see it and my dad sure will.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

@ 3rtful

Agreed. I wasn't referring to quality, but to tone and type of film. I liked both, but Blue Jasmine was magnetic, or more accurately Blanchett's performance made it magnetic. I guess I would've preferred to see more of the latter.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

I'm such a YES. I just fell in love with it watching the trailer, and I adore Colin and Emma.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

YES. This looks incredible.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commentero.s.

iggy - I feel you, but with this title there was no hope for anything like that hahah. I think we got exactly what it sounds like. :p

I do want more Blue Jasmine, though. It was so great. I do think Cate Blanchett helped because obviously she was AMAZING, but the script itself was still really strong. I love the Woody that's a bit more serious, a bit cerebral. Vicky Cristina Barcelona was great too.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Your third objection is particularly boneheaded considering Tall Dark Stranger and Scoop were not period films.

Anyway, this looks terrific.

May 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFielding

the premise seems ripe for a succession of one-liners...where the hell are they?

May 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I don't see why anyone who likes Woody Allen wouldn't see it. Even his "weaker" movies have something going for them.

And I know plenty of people, myself included, who find 'To Rome with Love' extremely funny. The shower bit is classic Woody. Critics trashed it, of course, as they do with most of his movies. They might just not appreciate his sense of humor, like a number of my friends who are really into cinema.

So I say go if you like Woody and don't worry about what the critics say. They usually don't understand his work anymore.

May 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

Just saw this film today. It's a definite "meh". Beautiful photography but the story is rather silly and the supporting cast has minimal involvement in the plot. I was anxious for it to be over and it's only about 90 minute film. No Blue Jasmine here.

July 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristine G

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