With Café Society, Writer-Director Woody Allen delivers his latest comedy. Does this recall Allen’s past glories, or is it one of his weaker entries?
Set in the 1930s, the film focuses on Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), a young man who leaves his family in New York to seek a new life in Hollywood. His Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) is a big-time talent agent and Bobby takes a job with him as an errand boy. He meets Phil’s secretary, Veronica (Kristen Stewart), who goes by Vonnie, and instantly falls for her. The only problem? Vonnie is seeing a married man. When Bobby can’t make it work with her, he returns to New York to run a fancy nightclub for his gangster brother, Ben (Corey Stoll). While at the club one night, Bobby meets another woman named Veronica (Blake Lively). The two of them fall in love and get married. Happily ever after, right? Sure, until Vonnie walks back into his life.
Café Society is a very funny film with a lot of dry humor. I really enjoyed the story of unrequited love at the heart of the film. The whole affair has a melancholic feel to it, making the film more of a dramedy than a straight up comedy. However, I found that some of the more serious elements of the film were kind of glossed over to keep the overall tone light. That blunted their impact and weakened the film as a whole. Nonetheless, it’s still a very entertaining film.
The cast is excellent. Eisenberg shows why he’s one of the best actors working today, but while he does a really good job here, he’s clearly a Woody Allen surrogate. He pretty much does a Woody impersonation, but it’s a good one. Eisenberg also shows off his fantastic chemistry with Kristen Stewart as they work together for the third time here. Stewart is a very good actress – when the material is good. The good news is, Allen’s script helps her to be a bright spot in Café Society. Blake Lively is also a lot better than people giver her credit for and she shines here. Corey Stoll and Steve Carell are really great and I also enjoyed Sari Lennick as Bobby and Ben’s sister, Evelyn. Parker Posey and Paul Schneider also put in fun performances as Bobby’s socialite friends.
Overall, Café Society is a nice, funny film propelled by it stellar cast. While the film is definitely funny, it may just leave you with a bittersweet feeling by the end. Definitely check it out if you have the opportunity.