- Cafe Society (2016)
With another comedy that solidifies Woody Allen’s fascination with the early twentieth century, we get to learn about the passing time and the changes it brings – with a well-balanced and witty film that sparks like the diamonds worn by socialites in the golden era of Hollywood. Read Cafe Society review below!
Bobby leaves New York to try life in Hollywood. Everything seems to fall into place slowly: his uncle introduces him to everybody worth knowing in the film business, and he starts romancing with his relative’s beautiful secretary Vonnie. Out of the blue, a series of clues leaves Bobby heartbroken and with a need to return to the Bronx – but his Los Angeles adventure, that involved a love triangle and meeting those who made it in Hollywood have turned his world inside out forever.
The story is as charming and glamourous as any old Hollywood tale can be: beautiful people strolling through stylish mansions, the elite making deals and sharing gossip during huge parties – you suddenly start thinking back to Allen’s Midnight in Paris, where he introduced us to artistic bohemia, paying a tribute to one of the European capitals. Café Society has that too: from the witty story, filled with pseudo-philosophical remarks from Bobby’s family (“You should live every day as if it was your last, and one day you will be right!”) and situational humour, to carefully chosen details, costumes looking like they’ve been lost in a time loop and delivered just in time for Allen to make his new film, and shots of locations which are an homage to the West Coast.
The plot is all about unexpected changes that life brings, and the timing that is very often painfully unfavourable. We’re served a story of growing up and see the changes in the main characters as we assist them on the way between Hollywood and New York: even if they become what they don’t really want to be, and become trapped in environments they don’t like with people they don’t truly care about, they seem to be unable to fight fate that dictated the way for them. Allen constantly makes us ask, “Will they? Or will they not?” – and we’re often startled by the answer that the film brings.
Such a story can be only possible with outstanding acting – and the cast really fulfils all the expectations; those who are still suffering a cinematic hangover caused by Eisenberg-Stewart team last year in American Ultra will have their time to recover and fast-forward to their good times together again. Firstly, Jesse Eisenberg as Bobby sets the bar pretty high: his boyish charm at the beginning transformed into a confidence of a grown-up man is delivered powerfully, with vitality and irresistible appeal. Kristen Stewart is also convincing as Vonnie: the leading lady grows from a totally relaxed girl who dislikes crème de la crème of Hollywood and sees through its superficiality to a seasoned member of the upper crust, namedropping and boasting about the activities she engaged in recently. Stunning and slender Blake Lively makes an appearance which is somewhat of a cameo rather than a major part, taking us back to her appearance on the silver screen in Age of Adaline and bringing mixed feelings. However, special congratulations should be delivered to Jeannie Berlin, Ken Stott and Sari Lennick: their comedy bits are delightful, with quotable bits of life wisdom delivered in a way your mother would do it (no pun intended!).
With a touch of humour and the magnetism of one of the most beautiful eras in the modern history, Café Society is a positive, tongue-in-cheek story which doesn’t try too hard with morals and lessons to learn – but leaves you with a few afterthoughts anyway.