Rachel Smith ‘16 / Entertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Questioning life, faith and love are all core parts of Woody Allen’s newest piece of artistic brilliance. Emma Stone and Colin Firth lead the perfectly assembled cast in this 1930’s romantic comedy. The directing is classic and familiar to his other films, especially Midnight in Paris. The colors of the opening scene set the stage for how rich and saturated the scenes will look. The locations they shot on are breathtaking and will make you wish you were there.
It opens with a magician performing an “oriental” themed show and doing strategic disappearing acts. It will take you a few minutes to realize this Asian performer is actually Colin Firth (well done, make up department). Fast forward to him after the show and realize he is a terrible, mean man who strives for perfection in every performance. He is yelling and throwing things in fury when a friend, Howard, knocks on the door. This man is vitally important to the story.
Howard invites Firth’s character, Stanley to expose a girl claiming to be a medium. They are both magicians and know every trick in the book. Stanley is a pessimist in nature and enjoys taking the magic out of “gypsy scoundrels” who pretend there is a spiritual world they can tap in to. He believes in nothing. No faith, no religion, and no real love to speak of. He agrees to see this girl, Sophie, but only to expose her to the family she is tricking.
She is staying with the Catledge’s, a wealthy family who are as gullible as they are rich. Especially Brice Catledge (Hamish Linklater) who is heir to the family fortune and conveniently fallen in love with Stone’s character Sophie. He believes in her “miracle” and says she knows him better than he knows himself. You can’t help but feel bad for this poor sap who plays the ukulele to serenade his beautiful spirit guide.
Emma Stone is perfection as Sophie. Sophie claims she feels “vibrations” and that is how she sees the future and reads people. It is a comedy so her “vibrations” are awkwardly hilarious to watch. Channeling a lot of That’s So Raven type looks; she is sweet but mysterious and Stanley is sarcastic from the moment they shake hands. They have a very jokey relationship from the beginning. She’ll say something ridiculously accurate and he pushes it off as a good guess.
You can see that they will be the couple of the movie no matter how many times Brice tells Sophie he loves her. Sophie hosts a séance that puts the nail in the coffin to make Stanley a believer. It also got a big laugh from the audience. He is flabbergasted and goes on trying to understand her. Through these efforts they grow closer and the dark cloud over his head starts to clear. He believes in something for the first time in his life.
This movie is so well written by Allen and really makes the audience think about big things. He makes huge statements about faith, religion and what people believe in. You even question what you believe in. Sophie connects people to their lost loved ones to give them peace of mind and thinks that is a good deed. Whereas, Stanley thinks that people should just accept that there is one plain, painful life and no amount of good deeds or suffering will make the difference.
The story has twists and the overarching question of “is Sophie really a medium or is she a fake?” You will get your answer followed by a very romantic ending. Some may not buy into the Stanley/Sophie relationship because they make Emma Stone look so young in this film compared to Firth but you feel their connection throughout. The characters are well developed and the story is refreshingly unlike most dark, aggressive magician films.
Though it runs a bit long, this is a beautifully directed film with an amusing story. Woody Allen fans rejoice, he has made another hit.
Overall Grade: B+