Café Society (2016)
Director: Woody Allen
Woody Allen’s latest is a mesmerizing painting of 30s Hollywood life. Telling the story of a young Bobby Dorfman (satisfactorily played by Jesse Eisenberg) as he starts his blooming career in Hollywood, Café Society portrays youth in stunning smiles and sunshine. From a typical Jewish family, not unlike the many households depicted in previous Woody Allen films, Dorfman leaves New York to seek a job in his big shot uncle Phil Stern’s (Steve Carell) Hollywood agency. Although he finds little luck in the movie business, Dorfman stumbles upon a greater treasure on his journey: the equally bright and beautiful Vonnie (a hypnotic Kirsten Stewart). Predictably he falls in love with her but soon finds he’s not the only man in her life. In the second act of the film, the love triangle is front and center until Vonnie makes a choice and the film diverges accordingly. The third and final act falters as the story threads loosen into expected turns.
Woody Allen does not surprise. His film is a mix of typical Jewishness, existentialism, and Manhattan love. His quips permeate the screenplay and the neurotic still stands as his favorite protagonist. What distinguishes Café Society are its color and talented cast. Almost as brilliant as Allen’s iconic Manhattan (1979), the film boasts of its gorgeous landscapes accentuated by warm color schemes and dazzling lighting. The exquisite frames brimming with charm and love wouldn’t have been as impressive without the terrific lead performances. Jesse Eisenberg perfectly fits the ambitious young Jew vying to prove himself to the world but it is Kirsten Stewart that steals the spotlight with her simple yet solid performance as a woman torn in love. Other noteworthy performances include Parker Posey and Blake Lively.
Nevertheless, Allen’s attempt to make something new and original – unseen since his Oscar-winning Blue Jasmine (2013) – is not exactly successful. Sure it’s not a blunder but it does not manage to impress as a convincing comeback to the auteur’s excellent filmmaking we wish for. Enjoyable and visually pleasing yet not entirely outstanding.