Australian Council on Children and the Media

Magic in the Moonlight

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Not recommended under 10; parental guidance recommended 10-13(Adult themes; some scenes disturbing for young children)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Magic in the Moonlight
  • a review of Magic in the Moonlight completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 1 September 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to themes and disturbing scenes
Children aged 10 to 13 Parental guidance recommended due to themes
Children aged 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Magic in the Moonlight
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length 97 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Magic in the Moonlight is a romantic comedy directed by Woody Allen, set in the 1920s on the French Riviera. The film follows an arrogant and cynical Englishman named Stanley (Colin Firth), a master illusionist who has little faith in the power and existence of the supernatural. After a performance one night, Stanley is approached by his colleague Howard (Simon McBurney) who asks him to travel to the Catledge family mansion in an effort to unmask a clairvoyant who has apparently manipulated her way into the family using her false powers. Brice (Hamish Linklater), the son of the family, is close to proposing to the clairvoyant Sophie (Emma Stone), thus making it crucial that Stanley investigate her authenticity immediately.

After spending some time with Sophie, Stanley is astounded by her ability to go into a trance state and draw out personal details from his life without being prompted in any way. Stanley even takes Sophie to meet his aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins), where she again proves her authenticity by revealing details of a previous love affair in Vanessa’s life.

After this, Stanley starts to view the world with entirely new eyes, becoming less accepting of his previous rationality and cynicism, going so far as to breaking off his engagement with his equally sceptical fiancée.

Stanley then holds a press conference to inform the public that it is his belief that Sophie is indeed authentic in her powers.  However, he is soon to find out that all is not as it seems.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Romance; trust and betrayal; the supernatural; belief versus rationality

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is limited violence in the film, including:

  • There are several sequences where apparently violent magic tricks are presented that may disturb younger viewers – for instance, Stanley appears to cut his assistant in half while she lies in a long box. After another trick, Stanley yells at his magician assistant for almost stabbing him, which could have potentially resulted in him getting blood on his clothing.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Stanley and Sophie are worried that they are ‘going to die!’ after their car breaks down during a thunderstorm. There is lightning and heavy rain, but the two manage to escape to a nearby observatory to safety.
  • Throughout the film, Sophie appears to go into disturbing trance states in which her eyes roll back and her voice is altered. In one scene, a candle floats in the air (seemingly without strings or supports), and mysterious knocking can be heard in answer to questions.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Stanley’s Aunt Vanessa is in a serious car accident (not seen) and requires surgery for her injuries – she recovers fully. Stanley is very upset and, while waiting in the hospital, starts to pray aloud that she will recover.
  • There is considerable discussion between Stanley and Sophie about God, the nature of religion and the afterlife, the existence of angels, ghosts and the supernatural.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Some children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

The film contains mild sexual references, including:

  • Sophie asks Stanley if he feels any attraction for her ‘as a woman’
  • It is suggested that a man should not enter the room of his male colleague, as it might lead to him being accused of sodomy.
  • Sophie reveals that Aunt Amelia had a past affair with a married man who was a public figure.

Nudity and sexual activity

The film contains mild sexual activity, including:

  • Stanley and Sophie share a passionate kiss after Stanley proposes at the end of the film, and Sophie accepts.
  • Many of the women in the film are presented in revealing clothing – the magician’s assistants wear bras or midriff-baring tops, while some women at formal parties wear low-cut dresses and semi-transparent skirts with slits up to the thigh.

Use of substances

The film contains significant amount of substance use, including:

  • There are many occasions where men and women drink alcoholic beverages – they have short glasses of whisky and scotch whilst meeting informally, glasses of wine over dinner, and cocktails and martinis at formal parties.
  • Both men and women smoke cigarettes and thin cigars throughout the film. Doctors are even seen smoking cigarettes in a hospital.

Coarse language

The film contains mild language, including:

  • There is a considerable degree of name-calling, including ‘gullible’, ‘mental defectives’, ‘stupid’, ‘halfwit’, ‘moron’, ‘sleazy’, ‘poppycock’, ‘fat’, ‘elephant’
  • There are also multiple religious exclamations, including ‘Oh my god’, ‘Thank god’, ‘Oh lord’

In a nutshell

Magic in the Moonlight is a romantic story about love, betrayal and identity. Over the course of the film, Sophie changes Stanley so significantly that he begins to re-evaluate the way he views the world in general. Despite her betraying his trust, his feelings for her remain and he is willing to forgive her for her previous discretions. In this sense, the film shows the power of love and the complex reality of relationships, as well as the need for compromise, forgiveness and compassion towards others

The film has some scenes that are likely to disturb children under 10 while the themes suit it more to children 13 and over.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Being true to yourself and your feelings, and being honest about them to the other people in your life.
  • The consequences of lying and manipulating others
  • Guarding against gullibility while remaining open-minded to the differing opinions of others.

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