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’ is Woody Allen’s 47th film and at 80 he’s still regularly producing films at roughly one a year, an incredible output but it is impacting on the quality of work, and ‘Café Society’ is one of his more disposable efforts of recent times. The film takes place in 1930s America, switching between Hollywood and New York as we follow Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg), a young Jewish man and a typical Allen protagonist as he tries to make his way in the world. Eisenberg is perfectly cast in the lead role, a role that Allen himself would have played at the outset of his career, and he has the nebbish, neurotic approach down to a tee.
Allen always brings a stellar cast together and ‘Café Society’ is no exception, with the likes of Ken Stott and Jeannie Berlin in particular the pick of the supporting roles as Bobby’s bickering mother and father. We first pick up with Bobby as he sets off for Hollywood and attempts to get a job with his movie producer uncle Phil(Steve Carell), and he meets his PA Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), who he immediately falls for. There’s one catch though – she currently has a boyfriend. Carell in particular is excellent at parodying the movie producers of this time period (on this effort he’d have been well cast in the Coen Brothers ‘Hail, Caesar!’) and Stewart and Eisenberg show more of the great chemistry they’ve got from multiple starring roles, ‘Adventureland’ my personal favourite. There’s a couple of subplots with Bobby’s siblings, brother Ben (Corey Stoll), a gangster and nightclub owner, and his sister (Parker Posey) and her husband (Stephen Kunken) dealing with a noisy neighbour, but this mostly feels like padding to hit the 90 minute runtime.
It’s all very light and moderately enjoyable, with strong performances throughout, but it’s also fairly dull when it circles away from Bobby and some of the dialogue is a little too kitschy and cute, written and delivered as if it’s smarter and funnier than it ultimately is. Still, for fans of Woody Allen, ‘Café Society’ has much to enjoy and the romantic comedy aspects show Allen is still better than most at this type of material.
Directed By: Woody Allen
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Jeannie Berlin, Ken Stott, Corey Stoll, Parker Posey, Blake Lively, Anna Camp, Paul Schneider and Stephen Kunken