Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Woody Allen’s and Lasse Hallström’s Latest

One’s mild, the other’s middlebrow

     After singing along with the ‘20s songs, ‘resting her eyes’ for quite a while, and actually watching the end, my Mother declared Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight as “mild.”  I have to agree.  Allen generally casts actors that have proven themselves for other directors.   He lately has focused on younger actresses such as Scarlett Johansson or Emma Stone here, though more experienced performers such as Cate Blanchett and
Penélope Cruz have delivered greater results.  Rebecca Hall has also been excellent, but she’s always good and doesn’t possess the ‘wow’ factor that generates the publicity machine.

Colin Firth and Emma Stone
     Emma Stone deserves better than her role in Magic in the Moonlight, but she plays with an understated sincerity and even convinces that she could love the arrogant grump played by Colin Firth.  Again, the fascism of movie star looks rules.  If Simon McBurney, who appears as Firth’s best friend, had switched roles, Stone’s character would not have been intimately interested in him.  Of course, if Woody Allen had played the character, she probably would have gone for him as Janet Margolin, Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow, and Dianne Wiest did back in the day.  Instead, the major romantic relationship is between a 20-something woman and a 50-something man.  As my Aunt said, “there were greater age differences back then.”  I agree, but thirty years is a lot even though Firth can pass for about 40.  The point is that it’s difficult not to see this as a reference to Allen’s much younger wife, who is Farrow’s adopted daughter.  

     This queasy fiction that might be based on reality conundrum is more compelling than the gentle, quasi-romantic comedy Allen has written and directed.  Jacki Weaver and Marcia Gay Harden should have switched roles since Weaver’s eyes match up with Stone as Harden’s coloring and mannerisms do with Hamish Linklater, the goofily smitten scion infatuated with Stone.

     I wish Emma Stone would purchase the rights to Rachel Kushner’s exciting and sexy romance The Flame Throwers (2013), set in the art world of New York City and the extremist politics of Italy in the 1970s.  She’s perfect to embody Reno; all she needs to do is learn to ride a motorcycle.

     My Mother and Aunt thoroughly enjoyed The Hundred-Foot Journey.  Neil and I liked it as well, though there’s nothing surprising about the narrative. (Helen Mirren’s mouth
Helen Mirren
surprises since it seems frozen in place.  I also didn’t like her obvious wig).  It’s a charming movie that combines food porn, cross-cultural romance, pretty cinematography, older acting pros (Mirren and Om Puri), and gorgeous younger potential stars (Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon).  It has positive messages about the importance of family and pursuing your dreams no matter the challenges.  

Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon
     No one under forty attended the matinee we saw, but the middle-class, mature, urban-suburban Caucasians seemed to really like it.  As Neil also noted, “it has a great musical score.”  

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