Movie review: Café Society

The Woody tropes are there, including disdain for all things Los Angeles.

cafe-societyI view the new Woody Allen movie Café Society at the Spectrum Theatre. At the end of the film, the man in front of me asks, “That can’t be the end of it, can it?” The next day, The Wife sees the film, and she says pretty much the same thing.

Conversely, I enjoyed the ambiguity of the ending. I have had a few relationships like that.

In 1930s New York City, Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg is the Woody character) lives with his mother Rose (Jeannie Berlin) and father Marty (Ken Stott), a jeweler. With few prospects there, Rose calls her brother Phil Stern (Steve Carell), a very successful agent in Hollywood, hoping that Phil could find a job for his nephew.

After days of waiting around, Bobby finally gets to talk with Phil about his prospects. Phil has his secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart in arguably the best performance in the film) show Bobby around town. Bobby is taken with Vonnie, but she tells him she has a boyfriend, a journalist named Doug.

And then emotions get turned around. There are three scenes, pretty much in a row, that I particularly loved – they made my wife really sad – where the characters discover missing pieces of the puzzle.

Meanwhile, back in New York, Rose and Marty (Ken Stott) have two other children: schoolteacher Evelyn (Sari Lennick), who is married to philosopher Leonard (Stephen Kunken), and nightclub owner and gangster Ben (Corey Stoll).

There is really only one section of dialogue that is laugh-out-loud funny, and it’s near the end, a conversation with Rose and Marty about Christianity v. Judaism.

The movie also stars Blake Lively as Veronica Hayes and Brendan Burke as Evelyn and Leonard’s nasty and obnoxious neighbor Joe.

There are good and not-so-good Woody Allen movies in the 21st century. Café Society is pretty good, #20 in this list of All 47 Woody Allen movies – ranked from worst to best. The Rotten Tomatoes summary called it “amiable,” which is quite accurate. Yes, the Woody tropes are there, including disdain for all things Los Angeles, but it works here.
Woody Allen’s Biographer Tells All Id meet ego. Ego, id. The celebrated, controversial, highly self-aware filmmaker’s new ‘Café Society’ is about himself — but who is that? By David Evanier

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