Writer: Woody Allen
Cast: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Eileen Atkins, Jackie Weaver
Running time: 97mins
The lowdown: Woody Allen follows the five star rawness of Blue Jasmine with an enjoyable wheeze. On the 1920s French Cote d’Azur magician and spiritualist debunker Colin Firth seems to have met his match in apparent miracle medium Emma Stone. Life, love, death and the meaning of life are whipped into a jaunty froth with Allen’s usual wit.
The full verdict: Those of a cynical disposition will snort derision at Allen’s breezy romcom. It even has a “meet cute” – Firth’s stuffed shirt skeptic Stanley Crawford (stage name Wei Ling Soo) finds himself bedeviled by Stone’s apparently real deal spiritualist Sophie.
Those willing to accept Woody’s invitation to the French Riviera may find themselves won over by this slight, agreeable French champagne and cream tea of a movie.
The central conceit – is Sophie the genuine article – is an intriguing hook upon which to hang typical Allen preoccupations of love n’ death, and lashings of fun is to be had watching Firth lampooning himself.
First seen in Fu Manchu drag as his Chinese magician stage act, Firth’s imperious, bombastic Stanley may have the measure of the universe but has literally not taken time to smell the roses.
And though Stanley and Sophie have significant others and can’t stand the sight of each other, will the well-worn path of romcom true love be walked?
The 1920s setting allows Allen space to explore two obsessions of the time, spiritualism and psychoanalysis, to frequently amusing effect. Plus, to a slightly ickier degree his preoccupation with the rejuvenating effects of an ingénue on an intractable older man.
As ephemeral as one of the myriad cigarettes Firth puffs through during the film, this is not down there with Match Point or Cassandra’s Dream or anywhere near the heights of Blue Jasmine or Midnight in Paris.
But, worth seeing for a game cast having fun (including Eileen Atkins as Stanley’s sprightly aunt), Darius Khondji’s golden cinematography and Firth’s hilarious back-handed “elephant” compliment to Stone.