The May-December Problem in Woody Allen’s Films Is Bigger than You Think

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Allen loves romance — as long as there is a huge age gap.

Earlier this week, Woody Allen's trailer for Magic in the Moonlight, the next period comedy set to charm your breeches off, was released. It looks to be as endearing as any of the films in Allen's recent comedic renaissance — Midnight in Paris, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Blue Jasmine. This one stars the ever-delightful Emma Stone, who's glowing up the south of France in the 1920s, playing a supposed medium with the gift of sight, and Colin Firth, the handsome British man who is skeptical about the medium. If we know Allen, we also know that an unlikely-yet-very-likely romance ensues between Stone and Firth's characters.

It doesn't take an Allen scholar to be struck with a leveling sense of déjà vu after watching Magic in the Moonlight's trailer. It's a drowsy, if glittery, hodgepodge of most of his best films. You've seen nearly identical pieces of the plot spun before: 1920s France was Midnight in Paris, the medium/magician angle is from Scoop, the title is a cross between Rome in Love and Midnight in Paris, the turbulent sparring hails from Vicky Cristina Barcelona, heading into the planetarium during a rainstorm cribs from Manhattan, and, let's not forget, the sort of creepy May-December comes from — wait, almost all of Allen's films?

If you need reminding, Emma Stone is only 25 years-old and Colin Firth is 53 years-old. It's a disarming age difference that Allen seems categorically indifferent to, even seduced by, throughout his 38 feature film canon. If he was trying to put Dylan Farrow's allegations or the fact that he is married to his ex's adopted daughter behind him (or take them out of the zeitgeist's mind), these types of old man-young lady (and never the other way around) relationships aren't going to do the trick.

Brooklyn Magazine took on the arduous task of ranking Allen's characters romances in order of ick factor and movie quality. The list is obviously very subjective, but the results were in: the less creep factor in the love plot, the better the film. And the mean age difference in the couples in 38 of his films was a 15.4 year age gap. 15.4 years! A high school freshman and a newborn. Allen's obsession, the May-December trope runs evidently very deep. Take a look at some of the stats collected by Kristin Iversen from the most popular flicks in Allen's catalogue:

Whatever Works (2009): 41 year age difference (Larry David, 62; Evan Rachel Wood, 21)

Mighty Aphrodite (1995): 31 year age difference (Woody Allen, 58; Mira Sorvino, 27; Helena Bonham Carter, 29)

Magic in the Moonlight: 28 year age difference (Colin Firth, 53; Emma Stone, 25)

Manhattan(1979): 26 year age difference (Woody Allen, 43; Mariel Hemingway, 17); 11 year age difference (Woody Allen, 43; Diane Keaton, 34)

Ouch. Magic in the Moonlight will be released on July 25th. Perhaps Woody Allen will surprise us all, and Stone and Firth's characters will form a perplexing platonic friendship in which Stone helps rid Firth of his inner demons via telepathy, but it seems like we all know the nature of Allen and plot recycling better than that.

Image via Harbor Picture Company.