Year of Release: 2016
Director: Woody Allen
Screenplay: Woody Allen
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Jeannie Berlin, Parker Posey, Corey Stoll, Ken Stott
Running Time: 96 minutes
Genre: comedy-drama, romance
It always seems like with the release of any Woody Allen film the big question is whether or not he is once again back to his best. In a career spanning almost fifty theatrical films, Cafe Society is not among his very best, but it is far from his worst. Set in the 1930s, the story tells of naive, idealistic young Bobby Dorfman (Eisenberg) who moves to Los Angeles from New York City to work for his Uncle Phil (Carell), a big-time Hollywood agent. Bobby soon finds himself in the glittering world of 1930s "cafe society", and falls in love with the beautiful Vonnie (Stewart), who happens to be already involved with a married man.
It's a comedy-drama film with the emphasis much more on the drama than the comedy. It has some laughs, particularly a philosophical discussion between an elderly couple that walks the thin line between comedy and drama very well, and almost recaptures the feel of Allen's earlier works. The trouble is that I couldn't shake the feeling, that, given another couple of drafts of the script, this could have been a really great film. The performances are very good, Jesse Eisenberg managing not to fall into the trap of doing a prolonged Woody Allen impression as the lead, and Kristen Stewart once again showing that she is a great actress, lending real weight and heart to the role.
This also must be one of the best looking films that Allen has ever made. Photographed by the great cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, each location and period in the story has it's own distinct palette and feel. For example, the Hollywood scenes are bathed in a kind of golden glow, like a late afternoon in summer, while the earlier New York scenes have a more monochrome washed out palette, punctuated by vivid bursts of colour.
As another love letter form Woody Allen to the 1930s to his beloved New York City, which surely has seldom looked lovelier than it does at the end of this film, it delivers. While far from his best, this is sure to please Allen fans, and should engage those wishing to unfamiliar with his work.