Café Society (2016)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Movie Review Café Society (2016)

Set in the 1930s, a young Bronx native moves to Hollywood where he falls in love with the secretary of his powerful uncle, an agent to the stars. After returning to New York he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life

Café Society (2016)

Here's my review of Woody Allen's latest film, #CafeSociety starring #KristenStewart and #JesseEisenberg and let me just put it this way, this is a very Woody Allen film. There really is nothing new here, if you've seen Woody's films in the past, you've pretty much seen CAFE SOCIETY and for some, that probably means good because you get what you're expecting to see, but to some, Woody's usual order of championing infidelity wrapped in a dish full of rom-com may seem a bit too exhausted.

The story is set in 1930s, a young Bronx native named Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) moves to Hollywood to work for his uncle, Phil Stern, who is a film mogul, an agent to the stars. Stern's secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) agrees to show Bobby around town, get him adjusted to the glamorous life as he starts networking with the who's who of tinseltown. It doesn't take long for Bobby to develop feelings for Vonnie who is actually already in a secretive and forbidden relationship. This leads to heartbreak which then leads to Bobby returning to New York where he finds life as a family man while running a high society nightclub he inherited from his gangster brother.

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy CAFE SOCIETY, I suppose I fall under the category of those who are kinda glad to be getting what we're expecting to see. And yes, big reason is because I'm a fan of Kristen Stewart who just looks so cute and luminous in this film, every time she steps in, she immediately lights up the room, no wonder Jesse Eisenberg's Bobby has that look on his face, like he wants to just eat her up. I don't know how, perhaps it's the costume or the makeup, but the film does a good job of making her glow. But back to the film itself, it has a jazzy tone, very fast paced, it's very situational as well. It's elegant and charming mostly because the focus on Hollywood's golden age is front and center. And the contrast between that place and New York is quite amusing. At times the film even feels like watching "Family Guy" in that it often cuts to moments that either try to explain the characters or try to give that one two seconds of hilarity in between. The actors aren't really given enough for them to further explore their characters but it's clear that that was never the film's intention. Can CAFE SOCIETY sit among Woody Allen's best works of all-time? Probably not. This is definitely not "Blue Jasmine." But I tell ya, again and again, from one film to the next, Woody just loves preaching the same sermon of.. if your spouse if fine but doesn't rock your world, it's OK to venture out, the grass may indeed be greener on the other side anyway. So the question is whether or not you're OK with that sermon.

Greetings again from the darkness. 80 year old Woody Allen continues to amaze with his proclivity to crank out a movie every year. With such movie abundance comes the inevitable hit and miss conversations. Of course, there are those who have never had a taste for his work and another group who have sworn off his films due to the headlines from his personal life. Still, as a filmmaker, his work is usually good for some analysis and debate.

This time out, Woody's story is set in the 1930's and it revolves around a young man from the Bronx who heads to Hollywood in hopes of making something of himself. Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) is the typical on screen alter-ego for Mr. Allen and displays many of the physical and personality traits we have come to expect. It's a perfect fit for Eisenberg. Bobby's naivety takes a beating as he assumes a gofer job under his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a power broker agent to the stars. Things really get juicy when Phil directs his secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) to show the local sites to Bobby. As the two youngsters grow closer, Vonnie must choose between the romantic idealism of Bobby, and the luxuries afforded by her older boyfriend (guess who??).

Allen revisits many (if not all) of his familiar themes: religion and the afterlife, misfit relationships, Los Angeles vs New York, jazz, older man/younger woman, and one of his favorites … "what's the point?" This time he also throws in a nostalgic look at Hollywood by name-dropping some famous stars of the era, but he's just as quick to flash his lack of respect for the movie industry and seems to compare it to the world of east coast gangsters (such as Bobby's brother played by Corey Stoll.

This is Mr. Allen's first digital movie, and it's his first time to work with legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (3 time Oscar winner for Apocalypse Now, Reds, The Last Emperor). The golden hue and low-level lighting provide a nostalgic feel and warmth to the scenes – even when the characters themselves aren't so cuddly. Excellent set design and costumes add to the beautiful and classy look of the movie. As always, Allen is working with a deep cast – this one includes Sheryl Lee, Anna Camp, Parker Posey, Paul Schneider, Blake Lively, Jeannine Berlin and Ken Stott.

"Life is a comedy … written by a sadistic comedy writer." It's the perfect Woody Allen line and we get the feeling he actually believes it. Heard here as a somewhat emotionless narrator, Mr. Allen makes it clear that Bobby's character (with no apparent skills) is a fish out of water in L.A, but thrives in nightclub management once he returns to the beloved NYC. Bobby's adventure hardens the young man, while he maintains the mushy core of first love that Woody so adores. Toss in a love triangle and little respect for the women characters, and we end up with a movie that feels like a movie about Woody Allen movies.
Café Society (2016)
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