Woody Allen’s Cafe Society lets us love his characters but not his whole story

(From IMDb.com)

(From IMDb.com)

Woody Allen did a lot right in his direction of Cafe Society, the Hollywood legend’s period piece about a New York City kid coming of age in the 1930s. Bobby Dorfman moves to Tinseltown and takes up under the tutelage of his bigwig agent uncle Phil Stern, hoping to learn about the life and maybe life, too. It’s a beautiful view out there until things fall through, pretty as a picture on the 1 hour, 36 minutes of Blu-Ray viewing on my flat screen.

But Woody Allen’s tale isn’t entirely satisfying as its telling.

Allen put together a stellar cast for that time and two places, and they embraced both parts.

Steve Carell goes deep. He’s warm as Uncle Phil, cagey as agent to the stars Phil Stern and confused as a cheating husband who after much anguish decided to leave for his much younger assistant.

Jesse Eisenberg appears to relish his chance to take on the Allen role of past decades. As he travels the personal journey from naive nebbish who falls so hard for that very same young woman to a successful club owner in Manhattan who navigates the rich and famous table-by-table with his beautiful wife taking care of their kids at home, he even at times talks in that trademark Allen New York pattern. You’d never know this is the same actor in, say, the Now You See Me movies. Blake Lively is lovely as that wife, falling for those ways and confident in her participation in his big picture.

Bobby and Vonnie, what to do? (From IMDb.com(

Bobby and Vonnie, what to do? (From IMDb.com(

But it’s Kristen Stewart who truly lights up the screen in every shot as Vonnie, who must choose between Phil and Bobby, live with that choice, them, and herself.

Of course, it gets messy in other family matters, too, as Allen tales usually do. Those things get settled.

Bobby and Vonnie, maybe not so much. It’s the kind of ending that makes you want to hit fast forward for the next scene.

Central New Yorker alert: The Liverpool Public Library will screen Cafe Society as part of our Foreign and Independent Films Series, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, in the Carman Community Room. Free admission, popcorn and beverages for all movies where I work.

What is your favorite Woody Allen movie, and why? Do you think Woody Allen always needs a Woody Allen character in his movies now? Who would you like to see play the Woody Allen character, and why?

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13 thoughts on “Woody Allen’s Cafe Society lets us love his characters but not his whole story

  1. haven’t seen this one yet, mark, and i do love his films. my favorite was ‘take the money and run.’ one of his old ones that is a classic to me. yes, i love when he is in them the most. p.s. are you still getting my blog in your feeds – i miss your feedback, but not groveling of course, just value your opinion )))

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  2. i never liked any of his earlier stuff but like you did mange to watch this one all the way through. Probably because i like the actors more… Keep the reviews coming.
    We had the opening of the prequel to the Red Dog movie in Australia last week. I do hope you have watched it. This one is from when he was a pup and Bryan Brown is brilliant in it. His wife directed it and it is a really feel good movie for all. Cheers Mark

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  3. I just saw this on Amazon. I gave it about 3. I agree it was well cast, esp Kristen Stewart. It didn’t have a huge punch but you know I like those period pieces if they capture it just so with the music, etc.
    My favourite Allen movie was Scenes from a mall. It had a couple of running gags like the sushi but probably I liked it because we watched it when we were first together. I wonder how often that happens? Haha

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