Cafe Society Movie Review: Has Woody Allen Lost It?

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What were your thoughts on Cafe Society?

Are you a Woody Allen fan?

Is Woody Allen’s best work behind him?

My video opinion below:

My other YouTube videos can be found here

I am a massive Woody Allen fan. He’s one of my all time favourite American directors. He has an extraordinary flair for comedy and drama. His writing and directing skills are exceptional and his ability to trawl human nature with such precision and longevity is awe inspiring. Despite being a massive Woody fan boy I can be objective. Not all his films are great, quite a few of his films have not even been very good. Though I can generally find something positive and enjoyable about every Woody Allen film.

I struggled with his previous film, Irrational Man. It felt exceedingly tired and dull, retreating back into the themes of Match Point and Crimes and Misdemeanours which were far superior. Cafe Society is Allen’s 47th film, and once again people have predicted that this is the end of Woody Allen. People have been saying that since the Mia Farrow scandal in 1992 and he always manages to rise with strong films in between average to mediocre productions.  I don’t believe that the best of his work is behind. He will give us another triumph like Blue Jasmine, Vicki Cristina Barcelona or Midnight in Paris in the future. Cafe Society doesn’t happen to be that triumph.

The film is set in the 1930s and centres around Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) a young Jewish Brooklyn native who moves to Hollywood in the hopes of getting work with his flashy agent uncle Phil (Steve Carrell). Whilst doing menial jobs for his uncle, he meets Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) and falls madly in love with her, even though she is having a secret affair with Phil (who is married). When Vonnie chooses to remain with Phil, Bobby returns to New York. Upon his return he begins to work with his brother in the night club industry, gradually becoming a key player in New York society. Then one day Phil and Vonnie walk into his nightclub…

The film looks gorgeous. The cinematographer does a great job capturing every visual aspect of 30s life in New York and Los Angeles. The NY nightclub scenes are particularly stunning. There are a handful of laughs and good one liners, particularly from Bobby’s hilarious yet stereotypical Jewish family. The standout performance in the film is Kristen Stewart. She hits all the right notes and seems to have what it takes to be  a Woody Allen muse. I’ve never been a far of hers,  but she gave a decent performance in The Clouds of Sils Maria, and since then seems to be making wise film choices.

Unfortunately Steve Carrell doesn’t have a great deal to do in this film. I’m still blown away from his fantastic dramatic turn in Foxcatcher. The main sore spot is Jesse Eisenberg. He doesn’t have an interesting or entertaining screen presence. Woody Allen has a knack for making unbearable actors somewhat more palatable when he casts them, such as Owen Wilson in  Midnight in Paris. Eisenberg is even less appealing than that. He is playing the role that Woody would have played if he was age appropriate for it. Eisenberg falls into the predictable trap of imitating Woody’s jittery and neurotic characterizations. It doesn’t work, he doesn’t make the character his own. The scene of negotiation between Bobby and a Jewish prostitute would have worked if Woody was doing it, but it falls flat in the the hands of Eisenberg.

Overall the film is has enjoyable moments but its certainly nothing new and feels somewhat tired.  It’s not a waste of time but it doesn’t stay with you in any significant way. In the mean time, I await Woody’s next great film. It shouldn’t be too long away.

 

Check out my article on the horrific realities behind the “glamour” of spring carnival horse racing by clicking here

 

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