Café Society (2016)

It’s become a clichéd phrase to say that even disappointing Woody Allen films are better than most other films. In this case, though, I don’t think it’s true.

In my opinion,  it’s not better than most other films. It’s just disappointing.

Café Society revolves around a genuinely decent premise. Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network) is trying to make it in Hollywood. His uncle, Phil (Steve Carell, The Big Short) is a talent agent, and he’s supposedly going to help Bobby out. Enter Vonnie (Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria), Phil’s secretary, who is charged with helping Bobby out.

Phil and Vonnie are having an affair, and yet Bobby and Vonnie fall in love. This idea was my favorite part of the film, since it allows for a sort of slapstick tragedy that Allen willfully stirs up. Phil talks about his mistress at the same time Bobby is talking about Vonnie, and hearts are inevitably broken before moving on. That’s about where my interest faded.

There should be poignancy in this, and there isn’t. I don’t feel particularly bad for anyone, nor do I feel like they even care. Kristen Stewart just trades up for glitzier clothes and Jesse Eisenberg somehow marries a home-ready Blake Lively. Where’s the passion? Where’s the heartbreak? At times I felt like Woody Allen believed he could get away with these deficiencies, simply because he’s Woody Allen. If you don’t like this one, there’s always next year.

In certain sequences, the actors were clearly standing in front of a green screen, which was replaced by a ritzy mansion. The lighting on the house was white, but the light on the actors’ faces was absolutely golden. I don’t think Woody Allen has gotten weaker. I simply think he’s gotten lazy.

2.5 Yellow

Café Society is at the end of its theatrical run. I prefer Hannah and Her Sisters and Midnight in Paris.

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