It’s hard to knock Woody Allen when you come to the sheer realisation that this is one of Hollywood’s greatest and hardest working directors you are ever likely to find. A man whose expertise in the field see him release a movie per year can only produce the utmost of plaudits, but along the way he’s certainly seen a few wayward moments of misdirection. Prior to Cafe Society, his 2014 effort Magic in the Moonlight washed away the happiness of Blue Jasmine‘s success and its follow-up Irrational Man could have produced more bite, but thankfully 2016’s offering is a much sweeter pill to swallow.
Cafe Society is trademark Allen; celebrating the classic age of Hollywood in all its glory, backed by that all-familiar jazz score and complemented by a wonderfully romantic tale among the understated glitz and glamour. The film itself is simplistic, telling the story of Jesse Eisenberg’s unassuming Bobby Dorfman, the son of a jeweller in the Bronx who craves for the high life where his uncle (Steve Carell) is a big-hitting producer in Hollywood.
Moving to Tinseltown in the hope of that big break, Bobby is soon introduced to Connie (Kristen Stewart), the secretary of his uncle and he is swiftly whipped up into a frenzy of love for her. They share a bond in being essentially fish out of water in terms of the glitz and glamour, but soon a blossoming love becomes much more complicated with a relationship revelation.
Allen is an auteur and Cafe Society certainly shows plenty of glimpses at why such a director is heralded as one of the greatest of the generation. He beautifully presents a world of beauty, magic and love, drenched in art deco and a stunning orange tinge that lights up the screen with each and every moment within Hollywood. It’s a sight to behold, along with the undeniable pairing of Eisenberg and Stewart.
While Eisenberg is essentially the lead, playing his part as Bobby with simplistic ease, it is certainly Stewart who steals the show as she does Bobby’s heart within the film. For years, Stewart has been unfairly underrated, having struck us with her prowess is films such as Camp X-Ray and Clouds of Sils Maria, and once again here she wows with her natural ability to captivate and charm. The pair have previously worked together in comedy American Ultra, but this is a completely different beast and one that is much more relatable and charming.
Where Cafe Society slightly falters is when it removes itself from the Hollywood humdrum and attempts to build up Bobby’s family roots in the Bronx. Admittedly, it provides plenty of opportunities for Allen’s comedy to inch its way in, but it essentially feels like a bit of a distraction from a love story that we’re actually drawn in by. Corey Stoll’s Mafia-driven Ben is undoubtedly a worthy cog in this machine but it feels all a little forced at times and puts a slight halt to the key component of this story.
Overall, Cafe Society is everything you’d expect from a Woody Allen picture; it’s charming, gorgeous to look at, and features superb central performances. Aside from the unfortunate moments of distracting comedy and unnecessary padding out, it’s a joyful treat for this festive period and one that will leave you with a warm feeling.
CAFÉ SOCIETY IS AVAILABLE TO OWN THIS BOXING DAY ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DIGITAL DOWNLOAD