REVIEW: MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

CAST

Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Eileen Atkins (Paddington 2)
Marcia Gay Harden (Mona Lisa smile)
Hamish Linklater (Legion)
Simon McBurney (Allied)
Jacki Weaver (The Voices)
Erica Leerhsen (Wrong Turn 2)
Catherine McCormack (28 Weeks Later)

Colin Firth, Eileen Atkins, and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)In 1928, a globally famous illusionist, Wei Ling Soo, performs in front of a crowd in Berlin with his world-class magic act. As he walks off stage the film audience sees that he is actually a British man named Stanley (Colin Firth). He berates his employees and is generally curmudgeonly towards his well-wishers. In his dressing-room, he is greeted by old friend and fellow illusionist Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney). Howard enlists Stanley to go with him to the Côte d’Azur where a rich American family, the Catledges, has apparently been taken in by a clairvoyant and mystic, Sophie (Emma Stone). In fact, the son of the family, Brice (Hamish Linklater), is smitten with Sophie, and his sister Caroline (Erica Leerhsen) and brother-in-law George (Jeremy Shamos) are concerned Brice is considering proposing marriage. Howard says that he has been unable to uncover the secrets behind her tricks and he admits that the more he watched her the more he believed she really has supernatural powers. So he would like Stanley, who has debunked charlatan mystics in the past, to help him prove she is a fraud.Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Howard and Stanley travel to the French Riviera, but Stanley is soon astonished by Sophie’s ability to go into a fugue state and apparently pull out highly personal details about him and his family. Stanley witnesses a seance in which Sophie communicates with the deceased patriarch of the American family. A candle floats up from the table and Howard grabs it to try to discern what trickery is at play, but is astounded to find no apparent subterfuge. Stanley begins spending time with Sophie. He takes her to visit his aunt and they drive a convertible along the picturesque rocky corniches.Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)When Stanley and Sophie visit his aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins), Sophie is seemingly able, after holding aunt Vanessa’s pearls, to somehow relate secret details of Vanessa’s one great love affair. This finally convinces Stanley of Sophie’s authenticity and he has an emotional epiphany, feeling that his lifelong rationalism and cynicism have been misguided. When caught in a rain storm, they end up at an observatory that Stanley had visited as a child. After the rain subsides, they open the roof up and view the stars.Colin Firth and Simon McBurney in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)At a Gatsby-esque party, Stanley and Sophie dance. As they walk together later that night, Sophie asks him if he has felt any feelings for her “as a woman”. Stanley, who has admired her talents as a mystic and is grateful to her for opening his eyes to a new worldview, is taken aback and admits that he has not thought of her that way. She leaves upset. The next day Stanley holds a press conference to tell the world that he, who spent his life debunking charlatan mystics, has finally come to find one who is the real deal. The reporters drill him with questions, but the grilling is interrupted when he receives news his aunt Vanessa has been in a car accident. Stanley rushes to the hospital, and in an emotional scene in a waiting room considers turning to prayer for solace. That is, if he now has come to believe in divination and mysticism, perhaps he should believe in God and prayer. He begins to pray for a miracle to save his aunt, but is unable to go through with it. The rationality that has been his whole life comes back and he rejects prayer, the supernatural and by extension, Sophie and her powers. He decides once more to prove she is a fraud.Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Using a trick seen earlier in his stage act, Stanley appears to leave the room but stays to overhear Sophie and Howard discuss their collusion in what has been an elaborate ruse. He discovers that Sophie was able to know so much about him and his aunt because she and Howard collaborated to fool Stanley. Sophie was indeed a charlatan tricking the rich American family and was quickly discovered by Howard. Rather than unmask her and stop the ruse, he enlisted Sophie to help him one-up his best friend and rival, Stanley.Hamish Linklater and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Stanley is initially angry at Howard and Sophie but decides to forgive them. In a conversation with his aunt Vanessa, who has recovered from her car accident, Stanley admits and fully realizes that he is in love with Sophie. He finds her and asks her not to marry Brice, but marry him instead. Sophie is taken aback and finds his haughty, awkward proposal unsuitable. She tells him she still plans to marry the wealthy Brice. Returning dejected to his aunt Vanessa’s, Stanley further admits that he fell in love with Sophie at first sight, and, saddened, is then surprised when Sophie, who had arrived before him, knocks a spirit knock. He proposes, she accepts with a spirit knock, and they kiss as the film ends.Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Not a classic Woody Allen but a very pleasant and lightly humorous film that older audiences in particular will enjoy.

REVIEW: THE KING’S SPEECH

CAST

Colin Firth (Love Actually)
Helena Bonham Carter (Alice In Wonderland)
Derek Jacobi (Gladiator)
Geoffrey Rush (Quills)
Jennifer Ehle (The Ides of March)
Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow)
Guy Pearce (Prometheus)
Claire Bloom (The Haunting)
Timothy Spall (Sweeney Todd)
Robert Portal (The Iron Lady)
Prince Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V, stammers through his speech closing the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium. The Duke has given up hope of a cure, but his wife Elizabeth persuades him to see Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist living in London. During their first session, Logue insists on being called Lionel by his patient and on breaching royal etiquette by calling the Prince “Bertie”, a name used only by his family. When the Duke decides Logue’s treatment is unsuitable, Logue bets him that he can recite Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy without trouble and distracts him by playing music through headphones while recording his performance on an acetate record. Prince Albert leaves in anger but Logue offers him the recording as a keepsake.

After King George V makes his 1934 Christmas radio address, he explains to his son the importance of broadcasting to a modern monarchy and demands that Albert train himself, starting with a reading of his father’s speech. His attempt to do so is a failure. Later, the Duke plays Logue’s recording and hears himself reciting unhesitatingly. He therefore returns to Logue, where he and his wife both insist that Logue focus only on physical exercises, not therapy. Logue teaches his patient muscle relaxation and breath control but continues to probe gently and persistently at the psychological roots of the stutter. Albert eventually reveals some of the pressures of his childhood and the two men start to become friends. With George V’s death in 1936, his eldest son David ascends the throne as King Edward VIII, but causes a constitutional crisis with his determination to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite divorcée who is still legally married to her second husband. It is pointed out that Edward, as head of the Church of England, cannot marry her, even if she receives her second divorce, because both her previous husbands are alive.
At his next session, Albert expresses his frustration that while his speech has improved when talking to most people, he still stammers when talking to his own brother and reveals the extent of Edward VIII’s folly with Simpson. When Logue insists that Albert could be a good king instead, the latter labels such a suggestion as treason and dismisses Logue. When King Edward decides to abdicate in order to marry Simpson, Albert reluctantly succeeds as King George VI. The new king and queen visit Logue to make up the quarrel, startling Mrs. Logue, who was unaware that the new King had been her husband’s patient.
During preparations for his coronation in Westminster Abbey, George learns that Logue has no formal qualifications. When confronted, Logue explains how he was asked to help shell-shocked Australian soldiers returning from The Great War. Since George remains unconvinced of his own fitness for the throne, Logue sits in King Edward’s Chair and dismisses the underlying Stone of Scone as a trifle. Goaded by Logue’s seeming disrespect, the King surprises himself with his own sudden burst of outraged eloquence and allows Logue to rehearse him for the ceremony.
Upon Britain’s declaration of war with Nazi Germany in 1939, King George summons Logue to Buckingham Palace to prepare for his upcoming radio address to Britain and the Empire. Knowing the challenge that lies before him, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain are present to offer support. George and Logue are then left in the broadcasting room. He delivers his speech with Logue conducting him, but by end is speaking freely. Preparing to leave the room for the congratulations of those present in the palace, Logue mentions to the King that he still had difficulty enunciating ‘w’ and the King jokes back, “I had to leave something in or no one would have believed it was me”.  After the King and his family step onto the balcony of the palace and are applauded by the crowd, a title card explains that Logue was always present at King George VI’s speeches during the war and that they remained friends for the rest of their lives.
I enjoyed watching this more than I thought I would. It’s respectful but truthful in its content and subject and gives an interesting insight into the miseries of stuttering. On the other hand the pace of the film was never impaired by what could have been unexciting content. It was lively and maintained interest throughout.