Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Café Society

Café Society is fun, romantic, and surprisingly smart, with a lot more going for it than it might seem. As we get a glimpse into contrasting scenes of New York and Hollywood during a rich and vibrant time in America's history, we begin to see the mentalities of the esteemed and the successful, and begin to realise there is perhaps this side to all of us. Employing a colourful and exciting aesthetic and a rich and genuine cast, Woody Allen achieves an interesting and engaging movie with a lot to think about.

Set in the mid 1930s, Café Society follows Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) as he decides to leave his quaint life in the Bronx behind and move to Hollywood to make a name for himself. Bobby hooks up with his uncle Phil (Steve Carrell), a highly successful film agent, who helps him get a start in the industry. Bobby quickly falls for the charming Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), Phil's surprisingly grounded secretary, however complications force the two apart. Bobby returns to New York to run a night club with his gangster brother Ben (Corey Stoll), before his life gets shaken up once again as Vonnie re-enters the picture.

The writing is surprisingly clever, with an easily missed message smartly woven into the changes experienced by the characters. While the end of the movie may ultimately leave audiences wondering if it was nothing more than a comfortable romance flick, the changes experienced by the characters throughout the film suggest otherwise. As Bobby remarks to Vonnie how she has fallen into the glitz and glamour lifestyle she had once loathed, we can't help but realise the same of Bobby himself, who perhaps only became this way through the bitter lessons learnt during his time in Hollywood. Needless to say, there is much to think about in the film's true meaning, and Woody Allen crafts these complicated pictures of society masterfully.

Performances are impressive across the board. Jesse Eisenberg employs a mix of his trademark awkwardness (The Social Network, Zombieland) as well as his surprisingly enjoyable and just as recognisable charismatic character (Now You See Me) to create an enjoyable dynamic to the character of Bobby. Likewise, Kristen Stewart proves she has matured much from her Twilight days to deliver a charming and enjoyably complex performance as Vonnie. Cafe Society features an impressive supporting cast, with particular mentions to Parker Posey who continues to raise the question of why she isn't in more A-List movies.

When it boils down to it, however, this movie isn't perfect. While Woody Allen's narration is ultimately enjoyable, it is perhaps unnecessary in telling a story which easily tells itself, and the constant jumps between the two different sides of America can be a bit jarring at times. This being said, the upbeat jazz soundtrack helps draw the viewer into the rich context of the film, easily supported by the constant name-dropping to 1930s Hollywood celebrities such as Fred Astaire and Joan Crawford. While it is often easy for intended immersion such as this to feel forced, Café Society does it with ease.

If you like complicated romance, you will enjoy this movie. If you like jazz and the 30s, you will enjoy this movie. If you like impressive portrayals of socially unsure and evolving characters, you will definitely enjoy this movie. And if you've ever seen a Woody Allen film and liked it, you will enjoy this movie. 

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