‘Café Society’ is Another Minor Work From Woody Allen

GameStop, Inc.

cafe-society-0002

Woody Allen is the most prolific filmmaker of his generation, releasing practically one movie every year for the better part of 40 years. However, that prolificacy has a cost, as a number of Allen’s weaker efforts seem like they could be salvaged with just a little more time spent refining their scripts. Allen’s latest, Café Society, is another one of those weaker efforts, with some entertaining aspects that are underserved by a scattershot script that can’t ever find a through line as it bounces between New York and Los Angeles at some indiscriminate point in the 1930s. The end result feels like Allen took one half completed script and merged with another half completed script to construct a feature length script that was half completed.

The first half of Café Society centers round Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), a New York Jew who has just transplanted to Hollywood in the heyday of the ‘30s hoping for his own shot at fame and fortune. His parents in New York, Rose (Jeannie Berlin) and Marty (Ken Stott), have arranged for him to meet with his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a powerful Hollywood agent. After finding time in his busy schedule, Phil sets Bobby up with an entry level job at his agency and asks his secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) to show Bobby around Los Angeles. It doesn’t take long for Bobby to fall head over heels for Vonnie. However, she’s currently in a relationship with Bobby’s Uncle Phil in a love triangle that Allen has pretty much pulled straight from Billy Wilder’s 1960 classic The Apartment.

After becoming disillusioned with Tinseltown, Bobby makes his way back to New York where he starts working a nightclub owned by his brother Ben (Corey Stoll), a ruthless and brutal Jewish gangster. Their nightclub is one of the hottest spots in New York, though the empire built by Ben quickly comes crashing down as he’s forced to stand trial for the litany of offenses committed over the years. For the most part, Bobby has found his place in the world through occupying this stake in the popping nightclub, even going as far as to marry a model (Blake Lively). With all the ups and downs of professional life and love lost, Bobby is part of the eponymous Café Society, a lily-white segment of the population that consumes liquor and jazz in equal parts as part of an era idealized by Allen throughout his career.

Like most middling efforts from Woody Allen, there are numerous nuggets that are amusing but fail to coalesce into a coherent whole. For example, Allen provides the narration for the film and provides the audience with elaborate backstories for the various patrons of the nightclub in New York City. Who are these people? It doesn’t matter. What’s the relevance of their backstory? It also doesn’t matter. This is just a minor, nonsensical addition that works, like the film at its best, as a mild diversion.

Café Society lacks depth in its themes, and the film’s themes often feel like they’re working in contradiction with one another. Part of what endears Bobby to Vonnie is her indifference towards the name-dropping aspects of Hollywood, but Allen has the film itself be one extended name-drop after another. In a similarly contradictory fashion, Allen has the thwarted romance between Bobby and Vonnie have a moment of rekindling, as if the moment was driven by pure nostalgia. Perhaps this all might’ve meant something more had the film provided more context to the post-Vonnie relationship that Bobby dives head first into, or how post-Bobby life is for Vonnie herself. Instead the film is entirely an exercise in nostalgia without depth or self-awareness. Café Society is a forgettable summer romance that the film wants to reaffirm was the most memorable romance you’ve ever encountered.

For the most part, Café Society boasts some decent performances, though the scattershot nature of the film’s construction doesn’t really allow anyone to shine. In the first few scenes, it seems as if Eisenberg is trying to play his role as a cipher for Woody Allen, but once the actor ditches Allen’s mannerisms his performance becomes much more assured. In their third onscreen collaboration, it’s hard to deny that there is a chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg. However, neither American Ultra nor Café Society has been able to harness that chemistry in the service of good movie, like Greg Motolla’s Adventureland. While Steve Carell is reliable in his role as a super-agent in the Golden Age of Hollywood, one can’t help but wonder if the movie would’ve been much more entertaining – albeit in a disastrous manner – had Allen not fired Bruce Willis from the role. Though underserved by the whole, I’d be interested in watching a whole movie about Corey Stoll’s brutal Jewish gangster. However, no character gets the short end of the stick in Café Society more than Blake Lively, whose character basically disappears once she’s had children.

The real things that stand out in Allen’s undercooked story is the cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and the costume design by Suzy Benzinger. Storaro fills his images with a warm color palate that really compliments the sunny weather of Southern California and the summer romance of its story, and when the action shifts to New York the images adjust to the different climate, only warming up during the brief reunion between Bobby and Vonnie. Benzinger’s costumes do pretty much the same thing, with the clothing reflecting a more laid back California attitude before diving into the glitz and glamour of a Manhattan nightclub in the ’30s. For all the underwhelming aspects of Café Society, these are the two most consistently pleasing.

Each and every year, people go to the latest Woody Allen movie hoping that the legendary filmmaker will strike gold again. Of course, that has become a rarer and rarer proposition over the past few years, but he’s still capable of greatness, as shown in Midnight in Paris or Blue Jasmine. Café Society is reminiscent of Allen’s last two features (Magic in the Moonlight and Irrational Man), featuring some interesting ideas that are in dire need of refinement. But Woody Allen is an artist driven by his compulsions, which has been detrimental in both his personal and professional life. As he’s reiterated throughout his career, Allen, like the rest of us, has a strong fear of death. If only somebody would tell him that a second draft won’t kill him.

Café Society
  • Overall Score
2.5

Summary

With a pretty look and rambling narrative, Café Society practically is the definition of a minor Woody Allen film.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

FanboyNation
Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
‘Unsung Hero’ Needs Backing Vocals – Review

‘Unsung Hero‘ had the potential to be a great film, yet...

Cristy Nickel Takes us Beyond the ‘Madness’ in a New Documentary – Interview

Cristy Nickel Takes us beyond the madness in ‘Code Red: Diaries...

Luke Dimyan Talks About Portraying Judas Iscariot in, ‘The Chosen’ – Interview

Luke Dimyan Talks About Portraying Judas Iscariot in, ‘The Chosen‘, with...

Event News Event Reviews
It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice’ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the Arts – Review

It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice‘ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the...

‘MJ the Musical’ Chronicles the Life of the ‘King of Pop’ Running at Segerstrom – Review

‘MJ the Musical‘ is the Ultimate Stage Adaptation, Chronicling the life...

Aiden Sinclair and Michael Rangel Talks ’57 Ghosts’ Aboard the Queen Mary Séance

Aiden Sinclair and Apparitionist, Michael Rangel Discuss their new Theatrical Séance...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

Ultimate Women of Wrestling Comes to the Globe Theatre – Interview

Ultimate Women of Wrestling Comes to the Globe Theatre on Sunday,...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse! Kurt v Sid pt 3

I am the anti-saint of paper cuts

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse, battle at the Infernal gate pt 2

Oh Bruh, you did NOT just quote "Predator"!

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – Battle at the Infernal Gate pt 1

NO NATURAL PREDATORS!

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus
MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Roye Okupe Brings Authentic African Representation to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

Nigerian-American, Roye Okupe brings authentic African representation to HBO Max and...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...