September 29, 2016
Café Society USA
Showtimes: 6:40 & 8:25 pm
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively, Parker Posey Runtime: 96 minutes
“A sweet retro-romance set mostly in old-time Hollywood. Cast is marvelous.”—James Verniere, Boston Herald.
Woody Allen of late has been relishing the glow of nostalgia in his films. Among his recent (and more successful) forays, Midnight in Paris beautifully blended modernist impulses with his reverence for the past. More introspective in tone, Café Society sometimes resembles Radio Days in its skeptical affection for the jazz-tinged world of his parents.
The new film’s Woody surrogate is Jesse Eisenberg, a guileless yet oddly arrogant New Yorker named Bobby, making his way alone in mid-’30s Hollywood. His uncle Phil, played with shark-like precision by Steve Carell, is a big-shot agent who takes forever to lend Bobby a hand. But, more importantly, he introduces the kid to his sexy, self-assured assistant, Vonnie, Kristen Stewart, who’s good in a more supple role. She has a boyfriend who never seems to be around, and Vonnie shares Bobby’s jaded view of the studio world.
Bobby’s Left Coast adventures—narrated by the director—are intercut with scenes from the reality he left behind, represented by his comically bickering parents (Jeannie Berlin and Ken Stott) and “tough Jew” brother Ben (Corey Stoll), whose gangster ways have been keeping the family afloat during the Great Depression. Ben also runs a chi-chi nightclub, where Bobby finds some romantic competition for Vonnie in the form of Blake Lively. A sense of unfinished business hangs over them, giving this sun-dappled snow globe a bittersweet air.
The goings-on benefits greatly from its impressive cast, particularly Eisenberg who is especially strong here. The film is lightweight, charming and affable. Special mention goes to famed cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, Last Tango in Paris) whose sumptuous cinematography gives Café Society moments of golden-hued enchantment.