Established and talented screenwriter/director Woody Allen graces our movie screens every year with his whimsical, but honest stories. In what some may call a small period of flops for Woody Allen in the last two years with Magic in the Moonlight & Irrational Man, Allen transports us back to his classic, but not much memorable, style of stories in Café Society.
Set during the Golden Age of Hollywood, amidst glam glitter. An entire city that runs solely on “ego” one character does not fall into temptation, Bobby Dorfman. A young Jewish boy, moves to Hollywood in hopes to find a new and exciting career. He works for his uncle Phil(Steve Carrel) and meets Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) where he is immediately enamored by her. Sadly she is in a relationship, with Phil. Eventually a love triangle is formed and Vonnie must choose either Phil or Bobby and chooses the latter. Making Bobby move back to NY because he’s bored of the Hollywood lifestyle and runs a nightclub with his brother and falls for another girl, but is still hung up on Vonnie; it just becomes a bit of a mess towards the 2nd act.
The script is rather meandering, as the story begins to move all over the place in the middle of the 2nd act; and the pacing did feel off at times. There were also side stories that didn’t bring anything to the overall story. They put such a large emphasis on Bobby’s older brother Ben (Corey Stoll) being a gangster and is convicted and put to be executed. That small thread of a story ultimately does nothing to further the plot and Bobby, although saddened, is left unchanged by this.
However, one bright positive is its visuals. Allen is able to capture the beauty of the Hollywood era, but just as well shows us how fake and artificial the city and the people are. Allen is known for his distaste in Hollywood and although so many things in the film are gorgeous and appear to amount to something great, it’s all hollow and really amounts to nothing. As a period piece, Allen does an excellent job in setting the mood and style of both New York and LA.
The performances across the board were great. Steve Carrel continues to do drama very well, while having a sprinkle of comedy to work with. Jesse Eisenberg plays the Woody Allen trope, that is very reminiscent in Annie Hall. The real star is Kristen Stewart who gives one of the best performances I’ve seen from her. Her character of Vonnie has the largest arc; when we first meet her, she’s someone who doesn’t like the fame and expensive things in life, but when it is given to her, she can’t get enough of it. It is in the very end when she realizes that everything she has ultimately means nothing and contemplates whether she made the right decision to be with Phil.
The rest of the supporting cast were fine, although some may not even be memorable like Veronica (Blake Lively) or Rad (Parker Posey.) However, there were still a few that were able stand out, in large part due to the comedy. Despite, some of the negatives, this film might be Allen’s funniest film since Midnight in Paris, with many one liners and situational comedy that can make you burst out laughing.
Certainly not his greatest, it would probably be like many of his other films such as Sweet and Lowdown or Stardust Memories. Good films, but just not as memorable as his other films. That’s where Café Society falls short, something that could’ve been great, but just becomes a decent film, unable to join the ranks some of his best modern works such as Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine.