There is also some “magic” in this film! Although a notch down from “Midnight in Paris” this romantic comedy is charming throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The movie is set in the late 1920’s. Sophie (Emma Stone) claims to be a psychic who can communicate with the dead, among other extraordinary powers. She and her mother (Mrs. Baker-Marcia Gay Harden) are staying with a wealthy family living in Southern France. A family friend (Howard-Simon McBurney), a top notch magician, was invited by a family relative to observe Sophie and expose her as a fraud, so that she can no longer financially and emotionally exploit the family. One family member (Brice-Hamish Linkletter) has been smitten by Sophie and has fallen madly in love with her. He wants her to marry him.
Howard asks his magician friend (Stanley-Colin Firth) to come to the home to expose Sophie since he hasn’t been able to do so. (Stanley is the world’s greatest magician but he works disguised as a Chinese man so he won’t be recognized.)
Stanley is certain that Sophie is a fraud since he is a materialist who is convinced that there is no God and no life after death. He is man enough to live with this “truth” rather than shoot up the “opiate of the masses” even though this philosophy causes him to live a pessimistic and bleak life. Unfortunately, despite close observation he can’t figure out what Sophie is doing either!
Sophie also seems romantically interested in Stanley despite Brice’s courting her with serenades on his ukulele.
The movie re-visits common Allen themes such as is there a benevolent, all-knowing
God guiding the Universe and our lives or not. (One minor flaw of the film is that Stanley gives his argument for materialism too often.)
Will Sophie turn out to be the real deal and force Stanley to change his world view? Will Sophie marry Brice and live the life of luxury?
The cinematography (Darius Khondji) is beautiful and the 1920’s soundtrack enhances the film too. Stone continues to demonstrate why is is one of the best young actors around.
Although more consistently amusing than funny ( there is still an occasional laugh) most Allen fans will be glad they saw it.
Rating-8.0 very good movie