Cafe Society: Film Review

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I am not what you would call a Woody Allen fan – I like some of his movies but I probably dislike a great deal more – and I wasn’t won over by his most recent efforts Irrational Man or Magic in the Moonlight. I haven’t truly liked one since Midnight in Paris in 2011. But Café Society is one of his strongest movies in recent times and while it’s not completely flawless, I was pleasantly surprised by it.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Bobby, who has quit his dad’s shop in New York to move to Los Angeles. He gets a job running errands for his uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a high-powered talent agent in 1930s Hollywood and meets Phil’s secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), who shows him around the city. They become great pals, but Bobby wants more even though Vonnie is currently ‘the other woman’ to a married man.

I love Eisenberg and Stewart, both individually and together. They have a nervous energy I can relate to and I enjoyed their previous movie American Ultra even though most people didn’t. They both try to do something different from their regular shtick here and while some of her mannerisms still end up there (a force of habit I guess) it’s nice to see Eisenberg, particularly in the latter half of the movie, being suave, a social butterfly and a charmer with the ladies, while Stewart is lighter, more positive and less of her usual moody self.

The plot in the first half is great to watch and very entertaining but there comes a mid-way point where Bobby moves back to New York. It sags a little here, loses the quick pace and you get the sense that Allen isn’t really sure where to go any more. Blake Lively, for instance, wasn’t really given much to do as another love interest and failed to make any real impact on the story.

I generally like Allen’s dialogue whether the plot is poor and this is no exception. It’s very observant and witty, although not all jokes hit the mark and most provoke a little smile or titter rather than a full-on laugh. There are some genuinely brilliant scenes, such as Bobby’s first encounter with a prostitute (Anna Camp), but there are also plenty of weak moments. I always enjoy movies about movie-making and the setting was glorious and looked amazing. I loved the music and I liked the cast, including Bobby’s brother Ben (Corey Stoll) and Allen regular Parker Posey, so it’s just a shame that Café Society isn’t much stronger. It’s certainly his best in comparison to recent efforts but it still needed some work.

In cinemas Friday 2nd September 

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