Making the Grades
Stanley (Colin Firth) is not a happy man. Despite the fact he is a highly successful magician working under the stage name of Wei Ling Soo, he remains one of the most pompous and miserable human beings to ever take the stage. He credits his gloomy outlook on the fact he is a realist. And apparently there is nothing to be joyful about if you consider life to be nothing more than a long slow march to death.
He is intrigued however when Howard (Simon McBurney), a fellow illusionist, invites him to the house of a rich American family living on the French Riviera. It seems the matriarch has hired the services of a clairvoyant who has agreed to help make contact with the family’s recently deceased patriarch. Howard is suspicious of the beautiful, young Sophie (Emma Stone) and her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) but he can’t debunk their con. He hopes Stanley, a self-proclaimed master of discrediting mystics, can help him unmask the pretty psychic.
But much to Stanley’s surprise, Sophie appears to be the real thing, revealing little known facts about him as well as his fiancée (Catherine McCormack) and his much-adored Aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins). Confronted with Sophie’s amazing ability to contact the dead, Stanley has to rethink his whole outlook on life—including his lack of faith in God or an afterlife.
Like many Woody Allen movies, this story sports an older man and much younger woman who will undoubtedly find their way into each other’s arms before the credits roll. (Twenty-eight years separate Firth and Stone in real life.) If anything, Allen is consistent in his choice of leading characters. His fascination with cinematography is also undeviating. Under the direction of Iranian born Darius Khondji, this 1920s era film is beautifully shot with stunning scenes of the French countryside. And other than the constant use of tobacco and alcohol, this period piece contains very little worrisome content.
However most teens and adults, that aren’t fans of Allen’s dialogue-heavy style, will likely be bored by the slow moving plot and the tiresome, egotistical Stanley who lacks any form of social graces. Drawing on similar themes as Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, this film about deception wants us to believe the derisive Stanley and the crafty Sophie are destined to be together. They might deserve to be together. But I can’t be duped into thinking it will be a happy union for very long.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Magic in the Moonlight.
What is the difference between the illusions Stanley uses in his magic show and the deception Sophie employs during her séances? Is one of them less harmful than the other? If so, why?
How has Stanley let his success go to his head? How does that impact his relationships with other people? Do you think Stanley is capable of every learning any social graces? How would it be to live with a person like this?
Stanley credits his pessimistic outlook to his lack of faith in anything he can’t see. How does his attitude change when he begins to believe Sophie really can connect with those who have died?