WOODY ALLEN'S LATEST FILM IS A STUDY OF FRIVOLITY AND TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY FASHIONABLE THINKING, WITH PERIOD-APPROPRIATE RESPECT FOR ITS FEMALE CHARACTERS
July 18th, 2014. Woody Allen's female leads tend to forever be attached to his oeuvre, if not by first earning their big breaks in the roles he writes for them, by filling his sun-dappled frames with their real-life flirtations, becoming America's Quirky Sweethearts: Diane Keaton inarguably owes a lot to Annie Hall, Mariel Hemingway to Tracy, and—well, it gets a little weird after that. Although Allen later relaxed his casting grip, going for A-listers as opposed to personal discoveries, the familiar style with which a leading lady steals his show feels ever present in Scarlett Johansson's (Match Point, 2005), Penelope Cruz's (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, 2008), and Cate Blanchett's (Blue Jasmine, 2013) more recent contributions to the canon.
Enter Emma Stone, who stars in Allen's latest 1920s-set ode to Modern analysis and philosophy, Magic in the Moonlight. Although Colin Firth more likely gets the most screen time, Stone's impossibly blue eyes take up more space than anything else. Her character (Sophie) is, unfortunately, a vapid sentimentalist bereft of all the winning attributes written into Annie Hall, and in the end presents a personality that feels only formed by her own admirers. The film gives Stone's dimpled smile and the natural charm her fans already adore a picturesque platform (in Provence, France). Other than that, though, the writing does little for her credibility. Sophie has an insatiable appetite (for "food"), for example, yet wriggles, rail-thin, in loose-fitting sequined gowns. And unlike every other character, she doesn't quite understand Nietzsche—but she really wants to. It will be interesting to follow the rest of Stone's career, and see what mark this foray into Allen's admittedly heavy-handed direction will leave on it. Already a Sweetheart, the actress is adding one more of these girl-next-door roles to her list; if she wanted more dimensionality from Allen, ditzy Sophie—who is introduced to us as the benevolent object of a rich young man's affection, through the eyes of the more tempestuous Stanley (Firth)—might not end up doing her any favors.
The premiere of Magic, which was last night at the Paris Theatre in New York, was almost as lofty an event as one Gatsby-esque party depicted in the film itself. After the screening, guests walked past a swarm of photographers and one stray sandwich-boarded protestor (something about freeing Emma Stone from Mia Farrow?) a few blocks to Harlow, decorated in gardenias similar to those in a few too-wordy romanctic scenes of Magic ("I've never truly smelled these, until now..." mumbles Firth to a much younger Stone, beneath full French trellises). Most of the cast and many a notable attendee wore head-to-toe Dolce & Gabbana, which could have camouflaged them among the gilded accents and blooms inside. At the party and in the film—the costumes were the best part.