“On A Magical Night” Is An Occasionally Inventive Yet Frustrating Comedic Fantasy


A good French farce can be truly something special. The way those films are able to mix comedy, romance, and more is quite something. On a Magical Night (formerly known as Chambre 212) seeks to somewhat follow in those footsteps, presenting a comic fantasy that mixes whimsy and even some sexiness. Unfortunately, the mixture is a little off, the material is a little too packed into a short running time, and the satisfaction level is lower than desired. This is not to say that the flick is bad, since that couldn’t be further from the truth. It simply hints at a much better effort than what we ultimately have on hand.

The movie is a comedy, with some fantastical elements to it. At its core, it’s about how we all wonder about the roads not taken, specifically when it comes to our romantic interests. Specifically, it’s through the eyes of Maria (Chiara Mastroianni), a professor engaged in affair. One night, she returns home and her husband Richard (Benjamin Biolay) confronts her. He’s seen text messages between her and a student. The jig is up. She tries to play it off, but Richard is having none of that, resulting in Maria moving to a hotel room (room 212) across the street. Separated by a tiny bit of space, they both do some thinking. In her room, Maria begins to get visitors, starting with a younger version of Richard. As more and more encounters happen, we begin to realize that all is not as it seems. To say more would spoil the vision being put forth here, incomplete as it is. Christophe Honoré writes and directs, with cinematography from Rémy Chevrin. Supporting players include Carole Bouquet, Camille Cottin, Vincent Lacoste, and many more.

When this film is on, it’s really on. Sadly, that’s less than you’d hope for. On the one hand, star Chiara Mastroianni certainly does her part, giving a complex and full throated performance. Writer/director Christophe Honoré, on the other hand, is less consistent, more in line with the production, itself. Sometimes, he’s hit on a really visceral and vivid part of romance. At other times, he’s far more interested in showing how clever of a filmmaker he is. It just never quite comes together, especially considering the comedic potential of the premise. In different hands, perhaps this might have been as magical as intended?

On a Magical Night isn’t quite as funny as you’d hope, isn’t quite as sexy, and isn’t quite as creative. There are periodic sparks from the imagination of Honoré, but too often you wind up hoping for something more interesting to happen than what ultimately does. Mastroianni is left hanging, as Honoré’s meditation on missed opportunities sometimes feels more like an exercise than a true production. That’s ultimately what cripples the movie. What should come off as imaginative and lively just has a bit of a hollow feeling. Whereas something like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was overflowing with those sorts of elements, this film struggles there. Mastroianni and the cast do their part, but Honoré can’t quite pull of what he’s going for, despite actually landing on a strong ending.

Now available, On a Magical Night (or, yes, Chambre 212, if you prefer) would quantify as an interesting failure. Christophe Honoré has a great premise here, one he just can’t fully execute. Chiara Mastroianni does her best to sell it, but one actress alone can’t fully pull it off. Anyone in the mood for some foreign fare can certainly do a lot worse than this, but you’re likely to be plagued by the thoughts of what might have been. Alas…


On a Magical Night is out now.

(Photos courtesy of Strand Releasing)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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