Cinema Review: Cafe Society | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, February 25th, 2020  

Cafe Society

Studio: Amazon Studios / Lionsgate
Directed by Woody Allen

Jul 15, 2016 Web Exclusive
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Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) has moved to Los Angeles hoping to build a life for himself. From a working-class Brooklyn family, he somehow has an influential uncle in Hollywood, power agent Phil Stern (Steve Carrell). Occupied by the Cagney’s and Hepburn’s of the world, Phil tasks his assistant Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) to show Bobby the ropes. As she guides him through the sundrenched mansions of Beverly Hills and beaches of Venice, an instant attraction sparks. Inconveniently, she has a boyfriend. More inconveniently, it’s Bobby’s uncle Phil, who is married but is reticent to leave his wife. This creates an opening for Bobby to sweep in and win Vonnie over. He endeavors to marry her, but as they plan to move to New York, Phil re-enters the picture, announcing that he left his wife and professes his love for Vonnie. She returns to Phil, and Bobby is forced to return to Brooklyn with his tail between his legs to help start up a nightclub with his gangster brother, Cafe Society.

Woody Allen’s Cafe Society is part Bullets Over Broadway, part Crimes and Misdemeanors, and part Manhattan. As a whole, it’s a mess of a story that haphazardly jumps around though settings, tones, and plotlines with little overarching point or direction, something that can rarely be said about one of cinema’s most gifted storytellers. Any sort of momentum built in the screenplay is thus tempered by uninspired casting and performances. No one remotely competent would hire Jesse Eisenberg to head a bustling nightclub. Blake Lively, playing a down-to-earth club-goer, and Kristen Stewart as a social climber feel like they auditioned for the opposite part. Certainly, Woody Allen’s film-a-year quota won’t always result in a Hannah and Her Sisters or even a Blue Jasmine, but entries like Cafe Society will make his most ardent supporters hope he rethinks his strategy.

Author rating: 4/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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