Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Jesse Eisenberg
CAFE SOCIETY (2016). Writer/director: Woody Allen.

"First a murderer, then a Christian -- what did I do to deserve this?" -- Rose.

Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) moves from Brooklyn to try his luck in 1930's Los Angeles, where his uncle Phil (Steve Carell) is an agent. Bobby becomes friends with Phil's secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), unaware that she is his uncle's mistress. Later Bobby opens up a New York nightclub with his gangster brother, Ben (Corey Stoll of Dark Places). But can Bobby outrun his heart and Ben the law? Cafe Society is a pleasant Woody Allen movie without Allen in the cast. Wisely recognizing that he could no longer play the naive young man starting out in life, Allen cast appealing Jesse Eisenberg as his surrogate, and it was a smart choice. You can just hear Allen saying the dialogue in his inimitable way as we watch Eisenberg play his part, and play it well, although the better-looking man plays the real, shrewd Allen more than his usual nebbish on-screen persona -- another wise choice. The gangster stuff is as tiresome as it generally is in Allen's movies, but there are some fine performances, especially from Jeanne Berlin [The Heartbreak Kid] as Mother Rose and Ken Stott as her husband. The picture is handsomely produced, with Vittorio Storaro's cinematography especially breath-taking. Cafe Society is a nice enough picture, but it's still a minor effort with a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion and a protagonist who can be annoying at times. The cast-off spouse of one character is completely forgotten, which is pretty typical of Allen since his split from Mia Farrow and even before. Eisenberg is certainly better in this than he was in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Storaro's exquisite work was also seen in such films as Exorcist: The Beginning.

Verdict: Great to look at, with a highly pleasant lead actor, but no great shakes when all is said and done. **1/2.


angelman66 said...

I too thought this was fun, slight, mild, and watchable. But Blue Jasmine was far superior storytelling. Still, I tend to like Woody's attention to detail in his period films--he has such a love and reverence for those old movies, like we do.

William said...

True. No, this was no "Blue Jasmine" -- when Woody hits one out of the park it's a winner.