Woody Allen is one of the greatest filmmakers of our time; over his career he has averaged more than one film per year. It’s normal to see a Woody Allen film come out every year, some are considered simply average works, and others stand out. His last lauded film was Blue Jasmine in 2013, and his most recent film: Café Society seems to stick out amongst his “average” films as well.
Café Society takes place in the 1930s, we find a young man named Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) as he moves to LA to try and make it in the movie industry. There he is taken under the wing of his uncle Phil (Steve Carell) who is a famous Hollywood agent. As Bobby begins to accommodate himself in Hollywood, he falls in love with Phil’s assistant, the young Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) who coincidently also happens to be Phil’s mistress, unbeknownst to Bobby. As you can imagine the typical Allen love triangle spews out, and the story slowly complicates.
I certainly have to confess that the story is very simple, if it were outlined it would take less than a page; but Allen’s dialogue is so rich that the film feels as complex and unique as any other film in the last decade. He certainly is given a lot of free rein (now that Amazon has taken on his upcoming film rights), and I have to say that he does go off a bit with his characters. Allen is known for rich leading and supporting characters, and he has a great roster of characters here as well, but Allen becomes embroiled in too many side stories that the audience is simply not interested in, so this causes for there to be abrupt pauses in the main storyline that we are much more invested in.
It’s probably not hard for Allen to get the actors he wants for his films, many if not all of actors today want to work with such a Hollywood legend. In this film Allen takes the talents of Eisenberg, Carell, and Stewart who are fantastic and are added with brief supporting rolls from Corey Stoll and Blake Lively. The two actors that shine above the rest are Carell and Stewart, Carell once again proves that he has grown into one of the most solid actors of today, and Stewart has managed to leave behind the tabloids and blockbuster franchises and has made herself heard amongst the auteurs and critics with beautifully subtle performances like the one she gives in this film.
In the end the film is classic Allen, it’s also a disguised love letter to old Hollywood and a nostalgic analysis of forbidden love and dreams. Café Society is as wittily written as any of Allen’s films, and the spectacular cast does well to live up to its legendary director.