Best Quote from Audience Member:
Woman: Did you like it?
Man: (vigorously yet apologetically shakes his head)
Woman: Yeah. I hear you. I'm sorry. We should have seen Guardians again.
This review is the first to use a new format. Because that's what you do when something isn't working, Woody Allen. You grow from it. You learn from it. And then your product will get better.
I'm going to be honest. I'm not a Woody Allen fan. I don't appreciate his history as a human being, and I don't appreciate his recent remarks on not casting black actors. However, I sat through his last movie, Midnight in Paris, to see what I was missing.
Unfortunately, I didn't find much to miss.
I was forced to watch Magic in the Moonlight, although there was a boycott on this film for the director's blatant and racist disclusion of POCs. Someone else paid for it, and I still felt absolute dirty guilt as I sat through the 90 minutes of white people doing white things.
The question then becomes: can a movie be separated from the artist? Can we enjoy a piece of art when the creator obviously has some beliefs issues? It is a question we come up against with Ender's Game, and it surfaces once more with Woody Allen.
I think the answer to this hard question is twofold. First, we have the question of royalties and money. Because I went to see this movie, Woody Allen made money. Did he make a bunch of money? No. But he still made something. By seeing art made by artists we don't wish to support, we support the artist. This becomes difficult when the artist's work is amazing and awe-inspiring and does some good in the world, although the artist himself does not do these things outside of the art's world.
But what if the piece itself is harmful? What if the piece itself is just no good? This is the second portion of the answer. If the piece itself has hateful or inclusive issues, then do we forget how there are other good parts to the piece? And do we go into the experience too biased to come to an honest conclusion?
Magic in the Moonlight does not have anything sinister in it, except for the fact that there is still an elephant missing oh my GOD where did the elephant go?! But beyond the magic elephant, to the naked eye, no racist words are uttered, no violent propaganda or improper romantic this and thats are had. It's a pretty boring movie about rich white people doing stupid rich white people things. In the midst of their richness and elitism is a story about a man who is trying to decide if the world runs on science or magic.
But see, that's the problem. This movie is not seen as wrong. The first five minutes of the film is Colin Firth in yellow face pretending to be a magician named Wae Ling Soo.
We then move on with Emma Stone calling Colin Firth from the Orient and acting as a Chinese. No one ever points out that Firth was in yellow face, and he is the only thing close to a non-white person we see. In fact, the Other in this film is pretty little waify Emma Stone and her mother, because they're American and poor and from Kalamazoo.
This would be fine because it fits the time and the story, but only if the author knew this was wrong.
So can we really pull away from the narrator or the writer? As writers, aren't we the least bit responsible for social awareness? Why can't Woody Allen point out that perhaps all of these people are rather silly and rather pampered and you can tell something about Firth's character because he dresses as "a Chinese?"
I don't have the answers. I only have a lot of questions.
The movie itself, morality aside, is not worth the trouble. Firth and Stone are both brilliant actors, but they are so enamored with Woody Allen being the director that they act like anyone else who has been to the Woody Allen School of Acting in One of Woody Allen's Films. They speak quickly, punching the script and not their character. They move like puppets or pawns being moved around a chess board. At one point, when Firth must make a proposal, he nearly gets to breathe as a professional performer, but the script moves too fast and he loses his chance for freedom from the puppet master.
Is it fair to call him a puppet master? Perhaps I'm being too partial.
The story has been done before. You know immediately what is going to happen. The ending would have been cute a hundred and fifty years ago when Wilde and Shaw were still hot and new. Unfortunately, the world has moved forward and developed from where we were. Woody Allen still uses a typewriter and doesn't believe in the internet.
I give this movie a C-. If you enjoy Woody Allen, I would be curious to hear what you have to say, or if I'm right in believing that this was not a stroke of genius. If you like spiritual movies, you will not like this movie. If you like rich white people with parasols playing ukeleles, driving in fancy cars, and sunbathing on the beaches of Southern France, you are in for a treat.
I like movies.
I see a lot of them.