Cafe Society – Fast Paced, Charming, Textbook Woody Allen

I always enjoy a good Woody Allen film (key word-good) so was excited for this one after its mainly positives reviews coming out of Cannes…Coming out of the cinema on Friday night, I felt like I’d been charmed to permanently smiling…

You can always be assured that until his dying day, Woody Allen will continue to bring us his customary ‘one film a year’. His latest one was Café Society, a wonderfully charming little thing that sees Woody come back to fine form after a couple of missteps in the past couple of years since the Academy Award winning Blue Jasmine (Best Actress – Cate Blanchett) back in 2013.

Café Society tells the story of Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg), a young New-Yorker who moves to Hollywood in the 1930s and falls in love. All seems pretty simple, but Allen’s script takes so many turns that the story keeps feeling fresh with each scene.

The fast-paced nature of this film encapsulates the period in which it is set. Hollywood in the 1930s or ‘Golden Age’ Hollywood is a time that many people today love and love to see on screen. Café Society takes us back to that time with incredible sets, stunning costumes, beautiful cinematography and all the name-dropping you could wish for. But while all that may help the enjoyment of this film, it is the performances that truly make this one.

Jesse Eisenberg plays nervous and naïve like no-one else since young Woody Allen himself and for what the film required of him, is perfect in the role. It’s not difficult to see yourself in Eisenberg’s Bobby and that just adds to the overall charm and likeability of the character.

While I will go on record saying that Eisenberg was incredible in this film, he wasn’t the standout performance. That came from Kristen Stewart as his love interest, Vonnie, secretary to Bobby’s powerful Hollywood agent uncle played by Steve Carell.

Kristen Stewart is an actress who has received a huge amount of hate in the past (mainly for her role in the Twilight film franchise) but since then, and especially in Café Society, she shows just what an excellent actress she really is given the right script. Her performance was equally as charming as Eisenberg’s and her character was probably the most interesting in the entire film, having to make the awful decision of choosing between two men she loves. Her and Eisenberg’s chemistry is also electric; they play off each other to perfection and the relationship between Bobby and Vonnie is one that is hard not to root for.

The other main cast members in Café Society are Steve Carell and Blake Lively. Carell, as already mentioned, plays big Hollywood agent, Phil Stern and while the characters decisions may be questionable, Carell oozes charm and likeability and when your three main actors are as likeable as these in their roles, how can it not be a success.

Blake Lively comes into the film a little later on and doesn’t have a great deal to do in her role but it would be harsh to say she didn’t give a perfectly fine performance. She is not the main focus of this story though. That stays with Bobby, Vonnie and Phil Stern for the most part.

Having said that the story mainly focusses on the three main cast members isn’t a lie but Allen does insert a few interesting little sub-plots in involving Bobby’s family. The older brother, Ben (Corey Stoll) is a gangster in New York and runs a nightclub, eventually taken over by Bobby. The sister, Evelyn (Sari Lennick) and her husband, Leonard (Stephen Kunken) are having troubles with their neighbour which Ben gets involved with. These sub-plots offer a nice little story of themselves aside from the main love story between Bobby and Vonnie and while they may have felt slightly unnecessary given that I’d have much rather just seen more of Bobby, Vonnie and Phil, they weren’t unwelcome.

Also worth noting is that Woody Allen himself narrates the film which is a nice little touch.

Coming out of the Cannes Film Festival with mainly positive reviews, Café Society may feel like typical Woody Allen…but what’s wrong with that!?

Ultimately, if you’re a lover of ‘Old Hollywood’ movies, if you enjoy nice charming love stories, if you’re a fan of Woody Allen’s typical neurotic humour or if you know that you’re a sucker for films set in the 30s with all the good stuff that comes with that time period, Café Society will be the film for you.

After a difficult summer when it came to blockbusters (and a great one when it came to indies), having another smaller film be as good as this one was brought a big smile to my face.

Be sure to let me know your thoughts on Cafe Society in the comments and check me out on Twitter and Instagram. Also if Horror’s your thing, head on over to the HorrorHouse section of this website to listen to all 7 episodes of my Horror podcast!!

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