There is a soupçon of magic and moonlight but considerably more insecurities and bluster in Woody Allen’s playful yet lightweight romantic comedy set on the sun-kissed 1920s French Riviera.
Regrettably, sparkling one-liners are in short supply on the Cote d’Azur and the on-screen chemistry between Colin Firth and Emma Stone is lukewarm, never threatening to set our pulse racing like her smouldering pairings with Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love or real-life beau Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man.
The film opens in 1928 Berlin, where magician Stanley Crawford (Firth) delights a sell-out audience in his guise as Chinese conjuror Wei Ling Soo.
Backstage, he berates his crew for their incompetence and lives up to the description of his best and perhaps only friend Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney) as “a genius with all the charm of a typhus epidemic”.
Howard entreats Stanley to accompany him to the Riviera to debunk a psychic medium called Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), who has promised to help wealthy widow Grace Catledge (Jacki Weaver) make contact with her late husband.
In return, Grace has pledged to fund an expensive institute fronted by Sophie’s mother (Marcia Gay Harden).
In no time at all, Stanley is smitten with Sophie and he struggles to find a rational explanation for her boggling feats of mind-reading and clairvoyance.