A young New Yorker is struck by the bright lights of Hollywood, has his heart captured and broken by a special lady, and finds himself in the middle of his family’s complicated relationships—in this observation of a social set.
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Bobby Dorfman (Jessie Eisenberg) dreams of bigger and brighter things. He moves to LA and takes up a job with his Uncle Phil (Steve Carrell), a Hollywood mover and shaker. He falls in love—but the object of his desire (Kristen Stewart) is already committed to another much older and richer man. Deciding the LA life is not for him, he returns to New York, crestfallen, but his heart doesn’t necessarily come back with him.
With his LA experience and connections guiding him, he helps his gangster brother open a successful night club in New York, and it isn’t long before Bobby becomes—like his uncleJessie Eisenberg before him—a mover and shaker in New York’s own Café Society. These high rollers have indulgent yet complex lives; and the more his intermingles with theirs, the more Bobby rises in stature.
He also finds love with the stunning Veronica (Blake Lively), and just as it would seem he has left LA behind, LA comes to town in the form of his uncle and his new young wife, rekindling Bobby’s lingering feelings for his unrequited love and reopening a complex web of family relationships.
Woody Allen has produced some magnificent films, but sadly Café Society—for all its glitz and glamour—falls well short of his best. Visually, it’s sublime, and you cannot help but enjoy the way he captures a glamourous Hollywood and New York of the 1930s. But even these bright lights cannot blind its viewer to the underperformance of the writing.
Eisenberg’s Bobby is Allen’s alter ego and he reminds us of his earlier films; but his, and Stewart’s underplayed object of desire, are at times too subtle. There’s humour, but not enough of it, and the backstories of gangland murders and high society scandals fail to deliver the laughs they should.
In essence, Café Society—despite all its alluring trappings, and incredible cinematography—ultimately falls a little flat. Like the champagne that flows freely throughout the film, it’s easy drinking, but sadly there’s a lack of fizz to this one.
Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carrell
Runtime: 97 mins
Release Date: Oct 20
Reviewer Rating: 3/5