Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Simon McBurney, Eileen Atkins. Comedy/romance. Written & directed by Emma Stone. Written & directed by Woody Allen.
FILM SYNOPSIS: A romantic comedy about a self-involved and cynical magician brought in to help unmask a possible swindler who claims to be a clairvoyant. Personal and professional complications ensue in this romantic comedy by Woody Allen.
PREVIEW REVIEW: There are two things I’m always impressed with concerning Woody Allen, the filmmaker. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that the Woodman cherishes a detailed and copious narrative. Second, despite his unbelief, he is one of the few filmmakers today who will at least address the existence of God. In this production, his lead is so sure that there is no life after this one, but for one bright moment, he transcends his unbelieving state. He is seen and heard praying (the sequence is almost like a faith-based film; I could sense Woody’s fans fidgeting as the filmmaker made them question their agnostic beliefs). Then suddenly the character reverts, revealing his, and the filmmaker’s, lifelong disbelief in a Creator.
I was saddened that the character, and I can only assume, the filmmaker, had come so close to accepting a Higher Power, only to reject the concept. What’s more, both the character and the filmmaker are bent on convincing others that there is no God, no afterlife, no reason for religion in the world.
As to the film, let’s just say, it’s not one of Woody’s best. My views are decidedly influenced by the fact that Woody puts his agnosticism into narrative form. Spirituality isn’t just fodder for humor here, it’s something that Woody ultimately disclaims and ridicules. (The last thing our world needs right now is for filmmakers to discard religious values.)
I also had problems with the lead being such a cantankerous character. He’s not just unlikable, but contemptuous of others throughout the film. He only cares for a few and accepts even fewer into his private world. He’s much like The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon. While these self-assured geniuses can be amusing, when you analyze their nature, you realize they would be difficult to be around for longer than today’s 20-minute sit-com length.
And Ms. Stone does little to endure us to her character. Though the actress has had some impact as a teenage character in past movies, her adult roles have depended on the strength of the script and fellow characters to hide her rather washed out screen presence.
The supporting cast is wasted – poor Marcia Gay Harden as Emma’s mother could count her lines on one hand before completely disappearing. The film itself is a superficial trifle full of cynicism, but lacking any true moral perspective.
Woody is one of the few filmmakers left who incorporates old style romance within his comedies, much the way Leo McCarey did (An Affair To Remember, The Awful Truth), but his lead couple, one a disagreeable snob, the other a rogue who preys on the vulnerable, are a match made anywhere but in Heaven.
DVD Alternatives: My Fair Lady. Based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion about a simple flower girl transformed into an elegant lady by a chauvinist professor, this eight-Oscar winner will enchant you with its ingratiating performances and memorable show-stoppers. Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn.
God Is Not Dead.