How Are Critics Addressing the Woody Allen Allegations in Reviews of His New Movie?

Slate's Culture Blog
July 25 2014 11:22 AM

How Are Critics Addressing the Woody Allen Allegations?

Magic in the Moonlight
Woody Allen and Emma Stone on the set of Magic in the Moonlight.

Jack English © 2014 Gravier Productions, Inc

Woody Allen’s last film, Blue Jasmine, was among the most financially and critically successful of his long career. But ever since his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow reiterated longstanding allegations that he had sexually assaulted her, discussions of the director have tended to circle around those charges.

His new movie, Magic in the Moonlight, is his first release since Farrow last spoke out, and we were curious how—or whether—critics would address the issue. Below, we’ve rounded up mentions of the charges in the most prominent reviews, and also noted some of the critics who decided not to bring them up.

Worse is the sour taste left by the romance between Stanley and Sophie. Ms. Stone, spindly in her flapper dresses, looks younger than 25, which makes the nearly 30-year gap between her and Mr. Firth—a discrepancy never alluded to on screen—even more striking. … Even if it were possible to watch this movie without thinking about Mr. Allen’s personal life—or to avoid arguments afterward about whether he is a creep, a monster or a misunderstood artist whose behavior has no bearing on his work—it would be hard to miss the complacency at its heart and the purely mechanical expediency of its execution.  
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— A.O. Scott, New York Times

On a symbolic level, though, I was interested 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.

— Kate Aurthur, BuzzFeed

The more things change, the more Woody Allen stays the same: It’s a comfort that this singular artist’s worldview remains so staunchly his own—often archaically against fashion—and that nothing seems to halt his movie-a-year pace. (This, after a year in which he found widespread critical and commercial success with Blue Jasmine, and harshly refuted adopted daughter Dylan Farrow’s molestation charges.)  

— Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York

But talk about off-screen space... 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.

— Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment

Obviously Allen has fans who will forgive the film for its proclivities, but given the swirl of news surrounding Allen in the past year, many more may share my distaste for the romance at the center of Magic in the Moonlight. Pretty and picturesque, and with some fun philosophical pondering livening up its thin story, the film is initially engaging. But, by the end, the icky relationship at its center has broken the spell.  

— Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

Decidedly creaky and more than a little creepy, Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” revisits a longtime favorite trope of the 78-year-old director—the younger woman smitten with a misanthropic older man. In decades gone by, the older man would be Woody himself, and there was a time this actually worked brilliantly in what I’d consider his masterpiece, “Manhattan.” But that was then and this is now.

— Lou Lumenick, New York Post

Since 1969’s Take the Money and Run, he has written and directed a movie damn near every year, screw fickle critics, public scandal and the Hollywood rule of dumb.

— Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Judging from reviews and box-office returns, the consensus seems to be that Woody Allen—the artist, as opposed to the man—has hit a late-career stride.

— Ben Kenigsberg, A.V. Club

Not Mentioned
David Denby, The New Yorker
Scott Foundas, Variety
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
Richard Corliss, Time
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
Stephanie Merry, Washington Post
Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
Tasha Robinson, The Dissolve
Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

Sharan Shetty is a writer for Brow Beat. You can follow him on Twitter

Eliza Berman is a writer in New York. Follow her on Twitter

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