Woody Allen keeps making films and I keep enjoying them, finding them more entertaining than most comedy dramas out there.
In a voice that doesn’t quite sound like him, Allen narrates the story of Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), a young man from New York City seeking to start a new life working for his uncle Phil (Steve Carrell) in 1930’s Hollywood. Bobby falls in love with his uncle’s secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), but Vonnie is in love with someone else. Meanwhile, Bobby’s older brother, Ben, has moved up in New York City’s gangster world and has bought a nightclub. Ben offers Bobby the opportunity to help him run the nightclub. With his heart broken, Bobby accepts Ben’s offer and returns to NYC, where both his life and personality will change dramatically.
I’ve left a lot out to avoid too many spoilers. The description above doesn’t sound very funny, and the romance is actually quite serious and sad, but there are many funny lines in this dialogue-heavy film. Especially funny is the violent dark comedy, though the violence is also a little disturbing.
Café Society isn’t one of Allen’s better films. It’s rather lightweight, it misses opportunities to help us truly engage with the characters, and a number of scenes fall flat, causing the film to drag at points. But the actors mentioned above do their best with what Allen’s given them (with Stewart standing out) and there are more more scenes that worked for me than those which didn’t work. The highlight for me, however, was the extraordinary cinematography - a work of art. The gorgeous cinematography did its best to contribute to the creation of a 1930’s atmosphere, though the overall success of that atmosphere was limited.
Without the great cinematography, this would have been a standard, enjoyable three-star Allen film, as many of his more recent films have been, but it was such a joy to just look at Café Society that I’m letting the film fall somewhere between *** and ***+. My mug is up.