Review: Café Society

Woody Allen has not quite been on a hot streak with his modern work, Blue Jasmine wowed but Magic in the Moonlight and Irrational Man fizzled, although the latter is worth watching so it leaves audiences wondering whether he can turn it around with this one. Set in the 1930s, a young man from The Bronx (Jesse Eisenberg) move to Hollywood for a slice of the glitz, glamour and movies by working for his uncle (Steve Carrell) and soon falls for his uncle’s secretary (Kristen Stewart) but nevertheless ending up back in New York working at his brother’s (Corey Stoll) high society night-club. Also starring: Parker Posey, Paul Schneider, Jeannie Berlin, Ken Stott and Anna Camp.

A lot of comparison has been made, and fairly enough there are a lot of similarities, between Allen and Eisenberg but watching the latter in this film you can see the whole manner of difference, yes they both can act awkward to a tee but Allen can’t pull off the charm that Eisenberg exudes here. It’s an enchanting thing to watch, to have this awkward young guy and yet somehow he just has a ridiculous amount of confidence, which makes his character a much stronger lead at the same time as more attractive, which is helpful in convincing an audience he could get both Stewart and Blake Lively. Lively however there is far too little of in this film, for the amount she was included in the promotion for the film you’d expect to see more of her, especially considering her look is pretty perfect for this era, but the amount you do see is enjoyable. Stewart on the other hand does appear much more but it’s hard too say too much about her role because it feels so written that it’s predictable and typical of the situation but she does still manage to give a good performance, and with Allen using so many close ups it’s quite fortunate that she’s that talented an actress she conveys a lot with simply her eyes. Stoll doesn’t make quite the impression, it’s another typical role and he generally feels more like a prop that he does a genuine character, it just helps the story along. Carrell however you can’t gloss over, his portrayal of an agent to the stars is practically perfect, there’s something so vain and entitled about his character and yet Carrell makes it so he’s not unlikeable which is a tall order. That’s a definite superficial quality and it’s poured on extremely thick and all the while Carrell manages to somehow restrict it from being too much, it’s quite impressive.

Allen’s presence with this film is undeniable, especially considering the fact he’s narrating the film, which was not a great choice as it comes across more as though there’s an old man standing next to the camera, it simply doesn’t piece together smoothly, it feels very much separate. However this is definitely a departure from his usual hyper neurotic style, the characters are romantics of course but there’s much less fret and worry clouding the film, which does perhaps make something more lightweight but in a carefree, joyous context rather than negatively. On the other hand, it will make audiences pine for New York as an Allen film should, with some beautiful shots of the city as well as those of L.A.. There’s also a strong sense of nostalgia for the golden age of Hollywood that is quite a warming thing to experience on screen, without it being too obvious and in your face. Lastly it has to be mentioned that the film has a wicked sense of humour, Allen’s writing here is really fantastic, this may not make it into the top list for his work for many but it’s genuinely a great watch.

As a whole, it’s a great bunch of actors who blend really well into a 1930s setting and a story that is not over complicated but plenty romantic and has a lot to offer. It’s something much more sentimental from Allen and may not be appreciated as such by some but has to be said, personally this is a film I really enjoyed and it’s great to see Eisenberg and Stewart strengthening their on screen chemistry even more.

Verdict: 8/10

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