Woody Allen’s latest is a tale of love and though he’s dealt with the subject many times before, the way he portrays it in Cafe Society feels of a purest essence. Alternating between 1930’s Hollywood and 1930’s New York, Cafe Society is a beautiful period piece that enchants its audiences with its majestic Hollywood palaces, vistas, and cozy rooms that come to life with the vibrant jazz in the background and the gorgeous costumes in the forefront. I must say Woody Allen has been more miss than hit as of late but I fell in love with Cafe Society upon first viewing. Which is why I decided to go back and watch a second time, where I discovered the little flaws and imperfections that damaged the viewing experience.
To begin with, Cafe Society follows Bobby (Eisenberg) as a young man searching to do something greater with his life, which is why he moves to Hollywood with the hope of being able to work with his uncle, Phil (Carell). As often happens, the young man falls in love and a variety of fooling around I mustn’t spoil ensues. Where this story succeeds is in the acting and the mood set by beautiful 1930’s background. All the characters have their common Woody Allen idiosyncrasies and the film bleeds Allen-isms but that might be the weakest aspect of the film. The Woody Allen narration and style are actually quite distracting, but the people behind each character aren’t and they are what make this film a lovely Woody Allen flick.
The most brilliant aspect of this film is its look and feel as it places you in the 1930’s, the mixture of the color, costume, and cinematography define this film’s character. Then you’ve got the slew of characters that are tinged with the common quirks designed by Allen for his archetypes, Jesse Eisenberg serves as a vessel for Allen to channel his former self through and though its weird to see someone replicate him in that way on the big-screen, it works for Bobby in the film. Exemplifying the typical timid yet insanely charismatic caricature of Woody Allen, Eisenberg succeeds in portraying the perfect character to move this film forward. As for the rest of the acting, it all works and helps get the movie from point A to B, its nothing out of this world, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Allen does decide to give some of the characters more time than what they really deserve as it is in Corey Stoll’s case who simply seems to stall the movie at times with his storyline. Among the good acting, there is someone that goes above and beyond and shines through, that individual being Kristen Stewart.
Saying Kristen Stewart was a great actress a couple of years of ago might have gotten me attacked by my peers, but lately her and Robert Pattinson have flipped their acting 180 degrees from the trashiness of Twilight. Specially Stewart who’s not only great in amazing movies like Clouds of Sils Maria but also serves as the bright-spot in mediocre films like American Ultra. Adding to the incredibly real relationship Eisenberg and her were able to establish in Ultra, Kristen Stewart does something new where she doesn’t recycle looks and establishes a real-world depth of emotion. When Steve Carell’s Hollywood suit caricature says he values character like the one represented in Stewart’s Vonnie, you believe him because Stewart is great in embodying a true human being entangled in such a huge scandal. She’s perplexed by the situation, acts irrationally at times, and brings power to her voice whenever she says something because she really means it.
As for the cinematography I previously mentioned, its fantastic. What Vittorio Storaro is able to do with a camera is incredible, the way he manages lighting and plays with shades to modify the mood of the scene is breathtakingly gorgeous. Painting classic Hollywood on the big-screen, Storaro does a tremendous job.
With all that said, I can definitely state this is Woody Allen’s best work since Blue Jasmine. Its a classic Woody Allen-like love story set in 1930’s America and its lovely. The acting is all good, Stewart shines, Eisenberg replicates Allen’s mannerisms to perfection in his odd way of representing the titular character we’ve seen in so many of his movies before. I can go on and on about the gorgeous lighting and costume wear employed in the film but I’ve rambled on about that too much. I must say the film does end rather abruptly in an almost Coen Bros.’ like way, but it works as it seems like the only way to leave the chaotic world Allen has designed here. This is a really good work by Woody Allen and hopefully he continues on this path and returns to that wonderful streak of great film after another he was able to establish during the 70’s and 80’s.