This week marks the release of Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight, the annual addition to his canon and the first of his films to come out after Dylan Farrow's renewed accusations of sexual assault. Magic in the Moonlight is, save for a couple of speeches on the nature of faith, lightweight fare, but certain Allen-isms can't help but recall his offscreen controversies. And it raises a not-unfamiliar question: how does one talk about a Woody Allen movie without talking about Woody Allen?
Magic in the Moonlight tells the Jazz Age story of Colin Firth's Stanley, an Orientalist magician, who sets out to prove that Sophie (Emma Stone), a young American medium bewitching a rich family on the Côte d'Azur, is a swindler. The two end up falling for one another. In frustratingly familiar Allen fashion, Firth is 28 years Stone's senior.
Certainly, some are wrestling with the question of whether you audiences can separate the artist from his work. At BuzzFeed, writers Kate Aurthur and Alison Willmore had a lengthy discussion about the film that veered into a discussion of how to view Allen's work in light of Farrow's essay published on Nicholas Kristof's New York Times blog. (Allen wrote his own rebuttal.) Though Aurthur, at the beginning of the piece, wrote that "anyone getting excited that Woody Allen’s new movie, Magic in the Moonlight, will offer a banquet of fictional opportunities to pore over Allen’s real-life tribulations — his daughter Dylan Farrow’s persistent rape accusations against him — is going to be disappointed," she later rightly states that "the screenplay, which was written and shot before Dylan Farrow told the world in February that her father’s fame is a source of continuous pain for her, is basically about an older man trying to prove that a younger woman is a liar." This is a point Nicolas Rapold hit upon in his review for Film Comment. Rapold explained: "I did not by any means enter this lighthearted romp looking for any such resonance, nor need it signify anything, but over the course of watching the story unfold, it did occur to me that the film’s suspense derives primarily from the spectacle of an older entertainer trying to prove that a young woman is lying."