Woody Allen’s latest takes us back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, where a young man leaves New York to make it in the Movie Business. It’s the 1930’s and Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) is a young Jewish man who has had enough of New York and travels across America to try work for his high powered Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) a Hollywood agent with his finger in many pies. While in Hollywood Bobby strikes up a friendship and unrequited love with Vonnie (Kirsten Stewart) who is having an affair with Uncle Phil. As the love triangle gets too complicated for him Bobby returns back to New York to manage his gangster Brother’s nightclub.
The regularity of the movies of Woody Allen is something to stare at in wonderment. You only have to read up about how he makes movies and the time frame in which they are done to be impressed. They are a mixed bag of quality and entertainment levels, where for me Blue Jasmine and Magic in the Moonlight are fantastic, while Irrational Man just bored me to tears. Cafe Society falls in the middle of the two. Allen shows us the Gold Era of Hollywood through rose tinted glasses, beautifully set dressing the scenes with authentic love for the time, but without the seedy side of the 1930’s that we all know is there.
The one thing that struck me in both positive and negative ways with Cafe Society is that Mr. Allen must have watched Goodfellas beforehand as when we travel to New York, and I can’t think of another time he’s done this, he shows the violence of being a Gangster. Bobby’s violent Gangster Brother is played by Corey Stoll from The Strain. His brutality and rise to power is shown through a lot of violence for a Woody Allen film.
Jesse Eisenberg seems to be channelling Allen in his performance which is fine as a lot of Allen’s comedies and movies have one character that is like him. Carell is slick and sharp as the Hollywood Agent about to throw away his 25 year marriage for the younger woman. I’m not a fan of Kirsten Stewart and here she does little to nothing to change my mind. Blake Lively plays the eventual wife of Bobby and is given very little to do in her role, she’s a very talented performer who can do more than this. It’s the background players that add more to the film than the main stars. People like Parker Posey, Jeannie Berlin, Ken Stott, and Sari Lennick. While not the biggest names in the film they are the very backbone of why you come away with a smile on your face.
The soft glow of Hollywood is in contrast to the pale grey of New York, the music is typical Allen and fits this film more than any other as the Jazz sounds makes the 1930’s come alive in both LA and New York.
After everyone settles down to their relationship choices it’s not long before the worlds collide again and Bobby is faced with reliving his past and putting his present on the line. The film is about the loves that we have that don’t work out but there is still something here. How we look back to what might have been as we grow older and wiser, the brief moments of risking everything for that one moment with the one that got away.
While Cafe Society won’t have the same longevity at Blue Jasmine it’s still good entertainment which under utilises some of the fantastic actors on the screen, if you know about the Golden Age of Hollywood the script has some great and sharp lines, but if you don’t then there is enough to keep you entertained through the running time. Not his best but far from Allen’s worst.
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell