Café Society (2016) Poster

(2016)

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6/10
A life unexamined is not worth living...and a life examined is no bargain.
blanche-29 January 2017
Leave it to Woody Allen to add that ending to a quote by Socrates.

Woody Allen is so prolific that he can't possibly knock one out of the park every time. Though "Cafe Society" has a bittersweet, thoughtful quality about it, it's not one of his best.

Jesse Eisenberg is the Woody character, Bobby, who moves to LA from the Bronx in the 1930s and drops in on his highly successful agent uncle, Phil Stern (Steve Carrell). Bobby has only been trying to see him for three weeks, but Uncle Phil finally comes through. He has Bobby work for him doing errands until he can steer him toward something better. He also asks his secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) to show Bobby around.

Bobby falls for Vonnie immediately, but unbeknownst to him, she's having an affair with his uncle, who is married. Phil decides he can't leave his wife and breaks it off with her, and she and Bobby wind up falling in love. But later, it falls to Vonnie to make a choice.

Cafe Society is a little on the slow side - the acting is good, there are a few jokes, it's historically accurate (I'm always looking for films about old Hollywood to goof up like Barton Fink), and the photography and fashions are beautiful.

Woody is talking here about the road not taken and showing us two people who think about that other road often. Of course there's no answer, but it is something we all wonder about especially as we age.

I just don't think the story was tight enough - it seemed to meander.

I'm not familiar with Kristen Stewart. She has a special beauty and a nice presence and fit into the film well. Eisenberg, like most actors doing the Woody character in Woody films, takes on some of Allen's inflections. He's likable. Steve Carrell's role does not play to his strengths but he pulls it off. Someone on this board complained about Bobby's parents. I thought Jeanie Berlin, whom I haven't seen in years, was terrific and gave a very realistic performance.

Not a heck of a lot goes on in this film - it's not serious like Crimes and Misdemeanors and it's not Bullets Over Broadway, which was a comedy with serious undertones about art. I think here Allen making a choice about which it would be may have been a good idea.
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8/10
Café Society
abouhelier-r15 May 2016
Set in the 1930s, a young Bronx native moves to Hollywood where he falls in love with the secretary of his powerful uncle, an agent to the stars. after returning to New York he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life.

Café Society opened this year Cannes Film Festival and is the latest film directed by Woody Allen. It's a story that mixes various parts of the Allen back catalogue to varying degrees of success. A film that wants more than anything to entertain. In many ways Café Society could be said to restate almost all of the key ideas and themes of Woody Allen's films in one way or another: life, chance, fate, love and guilt.

It also comes from the movie providing the performances. Jesse Eisenberg is so seamlessly cast as the prototypical Allen protagonist that when the film shift from Allen's voice over to Bobby speaking it feels continuous. Bobby's broken heart has caused him to undergo a Bogartian growing up: from a gauche boy to a mature disillusioned man, trapped in the wrong marriage. Moreover, Kristen Stewart sad eyes, throaty delivery and slightly heartbreaking aura make her almost interesting, ad an easy chemistry between her and her third-time co-star Jesse Eisenberg and he fits perfectly into his role while she simply overflows the screen.

But if Café Society is Allen quoting Allen, sometimes literally, at least he's quoting his better bits. Surprise comes from the movie providing the honeyed cinematography by V. Storaro which uses silhouette, graphic compositions and glowing close ups in an often genuinely breathtaking manner. "Life is comedy, but it's one written by a sadistic comedy writer" says Bobby. The comedy writer Allen on display here is more wistful and nostalgic for the very concept of unfulfilled true love, for the heyday of the Hollywood star system, for a New-York of gangsters and back alley craps game and stolen kisses at dawn in Central Park. And all of that nostalgia is okay. Because we were getting pretty nostalgic for the good odd days of warm, witty, fond and funny Woody Allen too.

Make no mistake Café Society is still late-period Allen. Men are described in terms of their characters and complications, while women are still described in terms of their beauty and their effect on said men. When Blake Lively's character motherhood becomes the butt of an exchange between two men, about how women who become mothers devote way too much time to their children (and ultimately not enough to their husband); it's a sour note that reminds us that Bad Allen is always there, underneath.

Overall, this film is Woody Allen's most charming film since Midnight in Paris and maybe most beautiful to look at, maybe ever. It's a little pretty little reminder of what once was
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5/10
One of Woody Allen's weaker projects
ybenhayun23 July 2016
There is a lot going against this movie. Jesse Eisenberg's character comes off as a complete asshole within 10 minutes of the film, thanks to a really terrible scene between him and a Jewish hooker. None of the humor in that scene landed, which just made the situation really sad and uncomfortable to watch, and then kind of difficult to root for Eisenberg at all after that. Steve Carell isn't bad by any means, but he seems incredibly miscast in a role like this (not to say that he can't act in roles that are more serious, but this Hollywood film executive didn't really suit him). Both of the Dorfman parents come off as really awkward on screen and thus kill any of the jokes that they're meant to deliver. The only actor that gives a notable performance in this movie is Corey Stoll as the brother, but it's not enough. Kristin Stewart was mostly fine, but occasionally started picking up some of her infamous Kristin Stewartisms throughout. Carell and Eisenberg become really close out of nowhere, both of the couples' relationships are sped up by Woody Allen's narration (which doesn't really add anything to this film), and this movie is only 90 minutes long, so I feel as if they could have definitely spent more time with all of these relationships, instead of just having Woody tell us what was happening. And on top of all of this, while this is a beautiful film to look at, there is nothing new in this movie. It's another Woody Allen movie with the same romances and love triangles centered around white people who like jazz with a pretty inconclusive and unsatisfying ending.
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8/10
That teardrop on the elegant profile
Woody Allen's latest, which opened yesterday in Paris and at the Cannes Festival, is a gentle and thoughtful examination of love. Jesse Eisenberg, best known for his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, plays Bobby, a young New Yorker who heads out to Hollywood in search of an exciting future. He falls for Vonnie (Kristin Stewart of Twilight fame), the secretary of his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a successful producer, and is soon confronted with the fact that she has a mysterious lover. The resulting confusion is worthy of Allen's mentor, Anton Chekhov. In an interview in the French magazine l'Obs, Allen remembers his own experience in Hollywood, talking to a producer who cut him off to take a call from Fred Astaire. We soon meet all of the rest of Bobby's family, including a gangster brother and a sister who is married to an intellectual, who offers such wisdom as the quotation, "Live every day like it's your last and some day you'll be right." With brilliant cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and great performances from Eisenberg, Carell and Stewart, the film is one of Allen's most enjoyable in years. The poster features a stylized profile of a woman with a teardrop - love always includes an element of sadness, even as it brings laughter and self-realization. A French review of the Cannes opening compares Allen to Ernst Lubitsch, master of urbane comedies of manners in the 1930's.
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9/10
Beautiful 1930's period piece film neatly directed by Woody Allen
DeeNine-210 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this more out of curiosity more than anything else and found it surprisingly good. I was surprised since Woody Allen was 80-years-old when this came out in 2016. It's rare to do such fine work in any artistic endeavor at such an advanced age. Of course the opportunity to direct Kristen Stewart was no doubt an incentive. It could be that Woody wrote this years ago and only decided to turn it into a movie when he got the very talented Vittorio Storaro to do the cinematography.

The co-incidence of uncle and nephew (unbeknownst to either one of them) falling in love with the same woman Vonnie (Stewart) was handled skillfully, especially the sequence of events that led to first Phil Stern (Steve Carell) and then Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg ) discovering their surprising rival.

In addition to this being a beautiful film with a lot of pleasing 1930's era atmosphere it is also very cleanly directed by the old master. There is no clutter, virtually everything in the plot is necessary and I was pleased with the realistic treatment of love sadly lost, and then the possibility of it being rekindled as an illicit affair, and then… Well, I won't say. See the movie. It's definitely worth watching.

One more thing: Kristen Stewart at 26 was as pretty as pretty can be.

--Dennis Littrell, author of the movie review book, "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote"
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3/10
One of Woody's Worst
Leafman30 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Woody Allen cannot make a quality film every single year. He just can't. But even in his lesser efforts, the movie is always about something, whether it be a dramatic (or comedic) focus on damaged characters or maybe another of his many stabs at existentialism. In the case of "Café Society," I was confused about Woody's intent since the film is not funny, nor is it thought-provoking or really even entertaining.

True, we have Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg), another one of Allen's coming-of-age protagonists from New York who brings ‎his youthful naïveté to Hollywood of the 1930s. Bobby commands most of the screen time, but Allen did not infuse Bobby with any endearing or charismatic qualities.

For scene after scene, I found the character to be so bland and pointless that I could not root for him. Instead, we just wait for the next moment of plot to come dropping on the character's head while the new-found glamour of Hollywood surrounds him.

Further, Allen's scattershot script tries to include his oft-used device of a love triangle, and the one in this film is among his most muddled. We know that Bobby is the type who'll easily succumb to the charms/skirts of his Uncle Phil's secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), and when we find out that Vonnie's boyfriend is really Uncle Phil himself (Steve Carell), we know someone's heart is going to broken by somebody in this trio.

But when Allen's script has Phil shifting his love from his wife to Vonnie, then from Vonnie back to his wife, then back to Vonnie again, we ask the question of ... why? It's not made clear to me. Consequently, it's a triangle where no one cares who's paired with who before long. And Carell's portrayal of Phil cannot make him a character we care about, as he is just as yawn-inducing as Bobby.

I also kept asking "why" when I saw the story abruptly changing focus to show us Bobby's brother Ben and his gangster ties in New York. In a curious plot deviation, we see Ben assisting with a murder plot of a mean-and-mad next-door neighbor to help two characters in the film, then later going to the electric chair for it. Again, the inclusion of this character felt so randomized, I kept wondering why we are supposed to care.

If there's a redeeming quality to this whole mess, it's the film's visual appeal. The costuming, the sets and the cinematography are all Oscar-worthy in their authenticity. Allen clearly was trying to make a piece of nostalgia here, and the LOOK of the film is simply breath-taking.

His other attempts to wax nostalgic just don't shine. Yes, we hear a parade of famous names, such as Joan Crawford, Paul Muni, Adolphe Menjou, and Barbara Stanwyck, but there's hardly anything substantive; as if sheer name-dropping by Allen would suffice to create a loving tribute to the 1930s.

Allen, at his worst, still makes films that try to do ... something. In other words, Allen does not seek to get rich off his movies by selling the masses the commercialized movie brainlessness that makes billions in box office sales. He genuinely tries to portray ideas, comedics or characters that are worthy of our attention.

That's why "Café Society" is completely baffling to me. I know Allen was trying to accomplish something. Very frequently, Woody is out to make a thought-provoking film, no doubt about it.

But I don't think the bewilderment that's plaguing my mind are the thoughts he wanted to provoke.
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6/10
Beautiful but unsatisfying
TheLittleSongbird7 October 2016
Woody Allen often is an interesting and insightful directors, whose films regardless of how they come off overall look great, have great soundtracks and he often knows how to get strong performances out of actors, at his best his writing was a fine mix of the hilarious, the poignantly dramatic and the thought-provoking.

'Café Society' is not one of his best films. Allen's glory days were in the late 60s through to the early 90s, with the 70s and 80s (which saw masterpieces like 'Annie Hall', 'Crimes and Misdemeanours' and 'Manhattan' for example) being particularly good decades. From mid-90s onwards he became hit and miss, with the odd gem like 'Midnight in Paris' and 'Blue Jasmine' but generally his glory days are long gone.

As far as his films from the 2010s decade go, 'Midnight in Paris' and 'Blue Jasmine' are vastly superior but 'Café Society' does fare better than 'To Rome With Love' and 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger'. 'Café Society' is not a great film, but is not a poor one, generally Allen has done worse (almost all of them being in the last twenty years or so) but it really isn't one of his better films.

Its best asset is the magnificent cinematography, every shot takes the breath away and complements the also spot-on and very handsomely produced 30s period detail perfectly. The soundtrack also is an ideal fit, giving a real sense of period as well as being a wonderful soundtrack on its own. There are shades of prime-Allen writing, there are some very funny moments, some touching ones and it does evoke thought afterwards, Allen's themes done in an insightful way.

The story is simple but rarely dull, it is a long way from perfect as will be detailed later on in the review but it did maintain interest. It's nicely directed by Allen. Performances vary. Blake Lively is positively luminous and Steve Carrell shows that he is adept at comedy and drama in a role that requires both extremes. Was very pleasantly surprised by Kristen Stewart, she can not do much for me but this is proof that with good material she can be good, the role could easily have been hardly one at all but Stewart does make the role more interesting than he deserved to be.

Jesse Eisenberg didn't work for me, he just plays a younger Woody Allen alter ego and it just comes off as a bad impersonation without being either funny or charming, instead it's annoying and the neuroses are overdone. Corey Stoll also feels very out of place, didn't buy him for a minute as a mobster, the role didn't suit him in the first place and it didn't fit within the period.

On top of this, the script and story execution aren't perfect. Mostly the script is very enjoyable but some jokes, especially the bad-taste and insensitive poking fun at Jews, do fall flat. Allen's narration is irritating, overused and over-explanatory, more show and less tell please Allen, consequently giving 'Café Society' an overwritten feel. The story does suffer from too much crammed in and sketchily developed characters (making the central relationships not quite as convincing as they ought to have been), and while there was no problem with a more morose at the end the ending just felt too inconclusive and gave the sense that Allen was indecisive as to how to finish the film.

In conclusion, looks beautiful and has some enjoyable things but somewhat unsatisfying. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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9/10
Very Satisfying
piercehadjinicola30 August 2016
An upbeat young man falls in love with a girl in 1930s Hollywood. 'Cafe society' triumphantly showcases Woody Allen once again at his utter best as he turns the prior statement into a complex study of human emotion filled to the brim with the same depressing realism in conjunction with the light hearted humour that Allen is renowned for. The film combines a perfect balance between cinematography and tone, and the acting brings to life the superb emotive dialogue that is the driving force for the narrative. The 1930s world built by Allen is fantastic as is the chemistry between the two leads Eisenberg and Stewart. Supporting characters are effectively used to develop the story as they contend with real world issues and the existential questions that keep us awake at night. Round of applause once again for Woody Allen who shows once more that he is truly one of the greats of cinema. Bravo.
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7/10
Woody as we know him
rubenm4 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
For me, seeing a Woody Allen movie is like spending an evening with an old friend. It's something to look forward to, because you know each other well and the two of you go back a long time. You know what the conversation topics are going to be, because he has his favourite subjects and lately he seldom talks about anything else. But that's alright, because he knows a lot about those things and is an expert in making nice conversation. Some evenings you spend together are more memorable than others, but it's always nice to see each other.

Seeing Café Society was no exception. This was Woody Allen as we know him: jazz music, New York, a socially awkward lead character, jokes about being Jewish, complicated love affairs - all those typical elements were there. The story is not even the most important part of the movie - it's about a love triangle set in 1930's Hollywood and New York, and about people betraying their own ideals only because they get older. It's entertaining, intelligent and elegant cinema.

During the years, Woody Allen seems to have perfected his style. He is like a chef with a legendary signature dish: the taste hardly varies, but it's always delicious.

Jesse Eisenberg, playing the classic Woody part, and Kristen Stewart as his love interest are adequate. They don't stand out as Cate Blanchett did in Blue Jasmine, but are quite believable as two lovers who ultimately marry the wrong partner. The thirties setting is nice: the way Allen and his cinematographer capture the elegance of the period is a joy to watch.
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8/10
Nostalgic and elegant
dierregi5 June 2016
The plot of the latest Allen's movie is your basic love triangle, set in the 30s and with a small twist. Eisenberg and Stewart play the two young lovers, Bobby and Vonnie, who meet in Hollywood, where Bobby moved from New York.

Bobby's uncle, Phil, is a big shot in the movie industry and Bobby is looking for a job. Vonnie is Phil's secretary and part of her job is to make Bobby feel at home. After a few months, Bobby realizes is not happy on the West Coast, but he is in love with Vonnie.

Bobby proposes to Vonnie and asks her to move to New York with him. But she has a "secret" lover, who also proposes. Bobby moves back to New York alone, to work in his gangster's brother night club. The denouement of their love story is melancholic.

I am not a fan of Stewart, but her part required some aloofness and mystery and she did a good job - whether because she is a good actress or because her range is limited to playing cold and detached I cannot say. Also, the movie offers some classic Allen's punchlines, about life, its meaning or lack thereof. The voice-over did not disturbed me a bit and, as usual, the soundtrack is fabulous. Since I start to feel Allen's nostalgia for the past, this movie fulfilled all my expectations.

If you like Allen's movies, you will probably like this one, too. It is nostalgic but not sentimental and elegant in an old-fashioned way.
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8/10
Solid Late-Period Woody
bkrauser-81-31106410 August 2016
Director/writer Woody Allen's latest film can be seen as one of his most personal films to date. Dialed to the bright, nostalgic feel of Radio Days (1987), Cafe Society nevertheless reels from an undercurrent of existential authenticity a la Husbands and Wives (1992) poetically and often ruefully addressing the feeling of having lost the road not taken.

Our protagonist is young up-and-comer Bobby Dorfman (Eisenberg), a New Yorker, whose dreams of making it in Hollywood rests uneasily over some very scrawny shoulders. At first he's aided by his Uncle Phil (Carell), an agent and powerhouse among the coastal elite. He sets him up as an assistant and script-reader. Bobby's family dutifully keeps tabs on him back in New York as he climbs the slippery ladder of Hollywood's well-to-do, finding friends in Steve (Schneider) and Rad Taylor (Posey) who have a hand in controlling the talent pipeline from coast to coast. His closest friend and eventual paramour however is Vonnie (Stewart) a comparatively down to earth secretary who would rather bask in the glow of the warm sun then in glitzy opulence. He idolizes her, pines for her despite her insistence that she has a boyfriend; an older man as we later find out.

Woody Allen himself provides the narration for this gentle nostalgia tour through Golden Age Hollywood. Much like his voice, the film feels warm, familiar if sadly slow and blunted. Lacking the consistently snappy tone of earlier works, Cafe Society leans a little too heavily on the love triangle, which granted, captures some excellent drama but is singed from overcooking. When we are rewarded with the usual delights of Allen's repertoire, it all comes out banal, like a list of axioms repeated one too many times.

Yet despite lacking the verbal excitement of Allen's prized filmography, Cafe Society more than delivers in gorgeous cinematography, characterization and themes which are glamorously brought to life by a talented cast. Steve Carell's natural amiability allows us to more easily welter in Phil's more unsavory character decisions which includes having his nephew wait in the waiting room of his office for weeks. He's an agent but he lacks the boorishness of Ari Gold. He believes in what he's selling, and given the way he name- drops by the poolside and the fondness industry insiders seem to have for him, you can tell he's good at what he does. Jesse Eisenberg brings the same frazzled nudnik buoyancy he previously brought to Allen's To Rome with Love (2012). It's easy to see why Eisenberg is a repeated player, the man brings all the trappings of Woody's old characters only with a slightly stronger edge.

If there's one standout however it would have to be Kristen Stewart who resists being the flavorless object of affection. Goodness knows it could have been easy given the time period of the film (not to mention her previous role in the Twilight Series (2008-2012)), but her strident autonomy keeps us invested. She's a piece of Citrine amid fool's gold, a girl next door above the ostentatiousness of industry fugazi. A girl to bring home to mamma.

Much of Bobby's character develops between the intoxicating glamour of Hollywood and the provocative corruptibility of New York City. The dichotomy has a night and day quality that is mirrored by the earthy Vonnie and the glittering Veronica (Lively) who appears later in the film. Large swaths of the movie take place in the Big Apple, much of which concentrates on the foibles of Bobby's sister (Lennick), brother-in-law (Kunken) and mobster brother (Stoll). Far from being unnecessary asides, these stories aptly meld into the film's large themes: love, respect and regret.

With the denseness of a novel and the light touch of Allen's finest, a question the emerges; what is the director trying to tell us through this story? Bobby's balance between the two cities he calls home, mimics Woody Allen's long, illustrious trajectory as a member of the New York intelligentsia and a Hollywood staple. Perhaps he's trying to tell us our problems may seem significant to us and every choice we make means another choice has been deferred, yet in the grand scheme of things, life is ultimately a comedy.
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8/10
You either get it or you dont
geeboy-4885423 May 2019
In my humble opinion most Woody Allen movies have a feel but some you can feel more than others and I do believe this is one of those stronger ones. Im sure it has something to do with the beautiful cinematography, scenery and costumes but also the love story was just so believable and Jessie Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart were just so genuine. Funny I don't normally even like those two actors but put them in a Woody Allen movie and it's a whole new performance. Lastly, I couldnt help but notice that most reviews on here are really good or really bad and that's most likely because you either get his movies or you don't. And I really got this one.
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10/10
Film Review: Café Society
lucasnochez23 August 2016
At eighty years young, Woody Allen delivers his forty-sixth (yup, you read that right) feature film with Café Society; a bourbon basked narrative feature showcasing the wonderfully vibrant jazz era of the 1930's, where the magic of the movies is very much alive; nightclubs are bustling with life, traces of the gangster underworld are closer than ever and love is a feeling as whimsical as ever in a parallel tale spanning from Hollywood to New York City.

After forty-six films, you would think, with a director and writer as aged as most of our grandparents, the dialogue and writer of such an iconic filmmaker would lose his touch, but Allen proves his newest feature is as fresh, fun and fantastic as could be. Self-aware and self-absorbed as ever, the auteur extraordinaire showcases some of his most subtle and subdued screenplay to date, focusing mostly on performance from his very young cast and indulging in the beauty of a lively era within the very social elite of Hollywood and New York City.

Like any good Allen film, the story follows a very unsure and adventurous young man by the name of Bobby Dorfman, played perfectly by the nerdy and always lovable Jesse Eisenberg. Bobby, who has chosen for a change of scenery from his native New York City life, decides to chance life on a whim, and join his highly successful and famed uncle Phil Stern (Steve Carell), a Hollywood agent and grande opportunist for a lavish life in Hollywood. Reluctant to really give his nephew a chance, Uncle Phil caves and leaves Bobby in the hands of his angelic and innocently beautiful secretary and assistant Vonnie, played elegantly by Kristen Stewart. Taken by her beauty at first site, Bobby and Vonnie begin experiencing the city of angels through the eyes of glamour and glitz, essentially discrediting the city and its inhabitants as a whole, and wishing for a life that is half Hollywood, and half urban paradise.

As the relationship between Vonnie and Bobby intensifies, despite Vonnie having a secretive relationship with another married man, the two share some of the most memorable meet-cute dates seen this year on screen.

The heart of Café Society relies heavily on the relationship and chemistry between Eisenberg and Stewart, who, luckily for audiences, have played love interests twice before in Adventureland and American Ultra. By now, while watching Café Society, one of the most frustrating elements of the film is why the two stars haven't began dating outside of the narrative of the films they star in. Eisenberg's quirk matched with the mysteriousness and nonchalant attitude of Stewart, make the two and quintessential non-Hollywood/Hollywood couple.

As life complicates itself, as all matters of the heart do, Bobby soon finds himself back in the big Apple, eventually succumbing to his big brother Ben (Corey Stoll) and managing a somewhat legitimate business in Le Tropical, a nightclub owned by Ben, among other very illegal and gangster business endeavours. Stoll, who dons a full head of hair as the fiery and ruthless gangster brother to Bobby, brings forth the charm and wit he did as Ernest Hemingway in Allen Midnight In Paris. An Allen alum, Stoll provides the film with some of its most expected comedy, yet is pitch-perfect as the tough guy older brother who knows no life other than the life of the streets.

Allen, who uses many of the same actors over in his films, Stoll twice, Eisenberg twice, Posey, Sirico and company, relies on his actors to deliver some of his most entertaining, fun and light-hearted material to date. Café Society is a fun, summerlicious filled romantic comedy with perfect instances of quirky dialogue and narrative that uses the beautiful jazz music as a mosaic of forbidden love and second chances.

While Café Society may not be the huge commercial success of other summer blockbuster films, the film is easily one of my favourite films of the year, delivering a true cinematically entrancing experience, much like Allen's Midnight In Paris.

If there is one thing I would recommend this summer season, its to make sure to watch this film by any means necessary. Café Society proves again that, like many good comedies, most are written by sadistic comedy writers, and while Allen's newest is far from sadistic, the film is an examined portrayal of an era of the golden days of cinema that brings back the golden, and leaves the rust behind. Sure, Allen can be completely self-absorbed with his films, making sure his unique cinematic voice is heard and quirkiness felt wholeheartedly, but, regardless of all that, I absolutely fell in love with this film. And while love is not rational, you fall, and lose control, which is the exact same feeling I had when leaving the cinema for this film.
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1/10
A Complete Failure
pwiener-592-5527785 August 2016
F. It is a complete failure. Hands down, the worst film he's ever made. Embarrassing. Pathetic. 713 cinematic clichés strung together almost at random, many of them ones he himself coined 40 years ago. Here are the same jokes perpetrating Jewish stereotypes, harping mothers, facial characteristics, Spinoza, waffling intellectuals, the same unattainable romantic ingenues falling unbelievably for a schlep (two in this case), the same pristine crowd-free dusky Manhattan skylines, now visible perhaps only in three locations if a filmmaking permit is granted, the same madcap scenes thrown in to distract from a weak, predictable story to keep you awake at Woody's arthritic nostalgia party, the same visually untranslatable but wholly textual old jokes. Here is Jesse Eisenberg looking almost - and sounding exactly - like a young Woody, a mannered performance, no doubt another of the director's self-worshipping tongue-in- cheek inside-seeking jokes. If that doesn't work, there's Woody himself opening the film and interrupting it every so often in a weary, zombie-like voice-over sounding oddly like Al Sharpton to explain to the viewer the point of what his writing and editing is incapable of realizing. Poor Woody has become a senile old man playing chopsticks on an out-of-tune piano, trapped in his own legend and incapable of a single new idea. If you remember Woody's great films, do yourself a big favor and don't see this: it'll be almost impossible to remember him well afterwards. It's sad to see great artists - and there are others - compulsively make fools of themselves late in life. Someone needs to rescue his dignity from his overpowering myopia, or he may crash into the mirror and cut himself badly. Allen's strong suit has never been self-awareness, only self- consciousness. Here is a film that surely almost everyone over 70 living within two blocks of East 70th Street and 3rd Avenue in Manhattan can relate to. There must be dozens. Think Grandpa in Depends crashing your teenage daughter's pajama party.
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2/10
Nothing of interest on this Café's menu.
writeguyr9 November 2016
As a longtime fan of Woody Allen's films I find the difficult situation of writing about an Allen film that was sub-par by Allen's standards. "Café Society" is nothing more than a parade of celebrity big name stars dressing up in 1930's wardrobe, then parading in front of the camera. Delivering boring, dour and staid lines. This was a disconnected film that had no real strong story line. It is jumble of inept plots that are supposed to connect but just don't work here. One of Allen's worse screenplay's.

The weakest link in this film is Jesse Eisenberg as the lead character Bobby. A young man who travels to Hollywood in the 1930's to find himself and his future. Eisenberg has had much success as a teen film star and recently as Lex Luthor in "Batman vs Superman," he did not do a believable job with his portrayal of Luthor. Nor does he do a good job portraying Bobby. As Bobby he just meanders through scene after scene. Yet all I could see is the teen star Jesse. He didn't transform well into a 1930's young man. In fact the entire film seem outdated as the time line. This film would have been much better had it been placed in the present time. His costar and love interest Kristen Stewart as Vonnie, fared even worse. Her character was a weak link that just did not match well with Bobby. Eisenberg and Stewart had appeared together in "American Ultra" with Eisenberg as a stoner/hit-man and Stewart as his love interest. They worked well together in that action/comedy format. Yet in "Café Society" there is no real chemistry between Bobby and Vonnie in this film.

Bobby's uncle and super talent agent Phil Stern played by Steve Carell plays his character way too serious and is wasted in this film. He constantly drops big name stars of the 1930's. Yet we never see any of them on the screen in cameos played by actors in this film. That would have given this film some credibility. The character Ben Dorfman played by Corey Stoll is added to put some action humor in the film as a gangster thug of the 1930's but it just didn't add anything or help here.

The love interest between Bobby and Vonnie is played out similar to Alvy Singer and Annie Hall played by Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in the 1977 Academy Award winning film "Annie Hall". In that film Hall/Keaton wanted a career and life in L.A. while Alvy/Allen was a true New Yorker. Same scenario pops up here Vonnie is in Hollywood, while Bobby become a night club manager in New York. While the 1930's costumes and sets are impressive. It all just comes across like an elaborate 1930's costume party. I liked Allen's film "Radio Days" a lot better. It had much more heart, soul and humor. In that film Allen took us back to his early days as a kid during the 1940's. It worked great because Allen told us his story and it was a very interesting story. Yet the 1930' "Cafe Society" is not interesting at all and seems quite phony. The only bright spot in this entire film is the brief appearance by the hot sexy lovely Blake Lively as Veronica, she livens up this dull film, if only for a very brief time.
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3/10
Flat Champagne
ags12330 September 2016
This film ranks among the worst in Woody Allen's filmography. There are lots of things wrong with it. Casting, usually a strong-point in his films, is way off the mark. Jesse Eisenberg is the latest in a string of stand-ins for the Woody Allen part and he's as bad as Jason Biggs in "Anything Else." Besides weak acting skills he lacks the charisma to carry a film. After this second go-round with Allen (he appeared in "To Rome, With Love") let's hope he doesn't become an Allen regular. Kristen Stewart fares somewhat better, though she lacks the ditzy quality that Louise Lasser/Diane Keaton/Mia Farrow conveyed so well. Steve Carell overplays his part. It doesn't help that the characters are all so unlikeable. Allen's depiction of Jews here is not only unflattering but downright offensive. The effort to make this a seriocomic morality tale doesn't work. The jokes fall flat and the message is muddled. The whole thing left a sour taste.
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7/10
It was a very romantic look at a moment in time.
subxerogravity18 July 2016
I myself am a sucker for a movie that gives a take on old school Hollywood and Woody Allen did a beautiful job with Cafe Society.

The cinematography on this one did a great job of capturing the feel of 1930s California and New York city. I can't get over how beautiful this thing was shot. A knock out combination of lights setting and music to bring out the mood.

And the jazz numbers that lace this flick did just that for setting that beautiful tone

Jesse Eisenberg started off a little too much Woody Allen at first (one particular scene in the beginning that acts like a hilarious sketch routine, where Jesse's character Bobby buys a hooker). It did get some getting use to, before it became his own thing.

Corey Stoll's character Ben, a though Jew who becomes a night club owner, whole involvement in the film taste like Scorsese light, which only made it even that more interesting.

It's a good Woody Allen comedy,but They are all good to me. If you like one you like them all (but I'm more partial to the ones he does not star in, like this one), and it's super impressive he does one of these on annual basis and he's able keep the quality constant.

It'a funny film with laugh out loud moments, and very crafty narrative narrated by Allen himself. This movie is just another love letter with the city he loves (and a thoughtful P.S you're OK too California), and makes Woody feel like such a helpless romantic, but that's what makes the movie so good to watch.

http://cinemagardens.com/?p=55
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9/10
Bravo, Dear Woody! Love discovered then love lost, what makes life worth living and worth regretting
inkblot112 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
In the 1930's, Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) doesn't want to follow his dad into the not-so-lucrative jewelry biz. Instead, he opts to go to California, where his hotshot agent uncle, Phil (Steve Carrell) may give him a job. Well, its not much of a job, a glorified gopher, but, it has fringe benefits. Ah, that would be meeting Phil's secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), who has been asked to show Bobby around town. At once, Bobby is smitten. Alas, Vonnie confesses that she has a journalist boyfriend, so, even though Mr. Dorfman and Miss V meet quite often, she establishes boundaries. Bobby is still googly-eyed. One day, however, Vonnie tells Bob that her boyfriend has ended their relationship and Bobby is eager to pursue her. Happiness ensues until Vonnie's boyfriend comes back into the picture. Its Uncle Phil, you see, and he vows to get a divorce. Heartbroken, Bobby moves back to Brooklyn, where he begins to manage a posh café for his brother Ben, a gangster on the sly. The family doesn't know what Ben does, they are just happy Bobby has a job. In time, Bobby meets another beautiful lady, Veronica (Blake Lively) who helps his heart recover. Or is it fully healed? We'll see when Phil and Vonnie, now married, come waltzing into the café! This beautiful, funny and intelligent movie is that latest gift from the one and only Woody Allen. As such, the script is a masterpiece of witty lines and great concepts and the direction flawless. Naturally, Allen also draws outstanding performances from his cast, especially Stewart who shines as the confused Vonnie. The scenery and costumes are above reproach and the look of the film wonderfully lovely. In addition, while the film is funny, it is also bittersweet, so tears may fall. Nevertheless, leave the café pronto and head out to a theater nearest you.
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1/10
Worst Woody Allen Movie EVER
mduffy52127 July 2016
I've seen every Woody Allen movie and loved just about all of them. But, and this pains me to say, this movie was terrible, just awful: way too long, insipid script, a story line that went nowhere except in circles, Jesse Eisenberg doing a very bad Allen imitation, and the "romance" between him and Kristen Stewart had about as much electricity as sitting in a ballpark during a rain deluge and watching the infield turn to mud. And worst of all, it was painfully, painfully BORING.

But the sets were absolutely gorgeous.

Sad to say it, but this has to be his last film. Another stinker like this one could irreparably damage his reputation and THAT would be a crime.
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9/10
Visual delight
lolo30005423 August 2019
This movie is beautifully shot, the play of colours, lighting, angles and setting is an absolute treat for the eyes. Eisenberg and Stewart have good chemistry, something that is not easily found in current movies. This is the most beautiful Stewart has looked in a movie, it feels as if you are effortlessly transported to the 1930's. Good acting by Eisenberg, Stewart and Carell.
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7/10
Beautiful but forgettable
lewis-elizabeth12329 July 2019
This movie is beautiful. The shots are very well placed. The lighting and colour palettes were extremely appealing. The dialogue was quirky but fun to listen to. The acting is good, direction is good. However, most films with this topic base leave you either incredibly thoughtful, happy or sad. Maybe if you are experiencing similar things as the characters then you'll get more from this film. However, it mostly left me feeling incredibly empty and I'll possibly forget about it.
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8/10
A quirky 1930's showbiz dramedy think La La Land but in the 30's and not a musical.
thebc-861589 August 2018
Cafe Society is the first film with Woody Allen associated with it I've seen unless you count Antz and he is fantastic with the offbeat comedy and drama. It follows a young man named Bobby (Jessie Eisenberg) as he moves to Hollywood to get a job from his uncle (Steve Carell) who is a Hollywood producer and falls in love with Veronica "Vonnie" (Kristen Stewart) as he slowly gets more connections and rises to more importance. The film is funny and upbeat with an excellent 30's jazz filed soundtrack, great performances, and hilarious bits thrown in amongst a slightly boring and predictable but well directed and acted period piece comedy about showbiz. 8.5/10
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8/10
When a nihilistic comedian is your favorite movie maker...
kane_1371-117-2310605 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Woody Allen is a gem like none other in the history of cinema, his humor is not loved by all yet he is widely known and famous and even respected by many. His brand of humor can feel like a cheap slapstick that leaves you smirking to some awkward jokes and in turn seem like a failure but any veteran of his works knows that is just the outer shell of his movies and hide the real meat of the movie, its bitter humor and contempt towards the world and fantasies of perfect society or life. When I say bitter humor and contempt towards the world or use the word nihilist it doesn't mean that Woody Allen actually despises life all together, in fact in my opinion he very much enjoys his life and even in his movies you see that even his characters do enjoy their life in their own way, it just isn't your typical happy go lucky way of looking at the world.

In his works time and time again his criticism towards the humanity's vanities are observed via his awkward jokes that are not really meant to make you burst out laughing but to make you think, really think and this movie is no different. In an ever more cautious and morally and politically correct world Allen's stories might seem "offensive", "distasteful", "like flat champagne" and "weak" but in truth he has not wavered from his age old mission: Entertaining the masses and making them think with a smile on their lips.

This movie follows Bob as he moves to warm and sunny Hollywood from drab and grey New York to start a new adventure in his life and get into working in the movie industry one way or another. His goal is to get some help from his uncle who is a big man in Hollywood to get started, however he falls in love with the uncle's secretary and wouldn't you know it the secretary is the uncle's girlfriend. The story continues on and Bob after failing in his love life and career in Hollywood moves back to New York and gets successful and starts a family and life basically moves on for a while before he meets his old love again and basically ends with one of the biggest punches in the face a movie goer can receive from a comedy movie and that is the movie ending on a note that leaves you certain that no one got a "happy ending". As in Bob is married to a beautiful woman and has children and success but can not stop thinking about the love that never went anywhere and you know this will eat at him forever and the same for Veronica who is married to an older successful man but will never be able to get over Bob and will never be truly happy. This is yet again the nihilistic side of Woody Allen coming out to play. We have seen this side in many of his films even in his most playful and mainstream works like "Midnight in Paris" we see him tearing down the feel good moments of its characters only to push them under the spot light of reality; and whether we like it or not the reality is that being obsessed with nostalgia in case of main character of "Midnight in Paris" does not make for a good life but at least in that movie the character gets a happy ending after going through a serious but mild wake up call. Here we get to really taste that sour and bitter taste of real life that even "Irrational man" with its ending didn't create. What I really enjoy with Woody Allen movies is the atmosphere and this movie had plenty of it and it was very dynamic. At the start of the movie New York is depicting as drab and grey, the colors are cold and washed out, the warmest you get is when you are watching scenes of the family home. Hollywood is warm and bright and colorful in a contrast to New York with its washed out colors and whenever Bob is with Veronica the colors are vivid and beautiful but when you hit the second half and Bob returns to New York you start to see New York becoming more colorful and colors pop out and are warmer even when depicting stuff like a body being shot with a gun. As per the usual of Allen's movies great jazz fills the movie with even more atmosphere and character. Jesse Eisenberg while not Woody Allen is very good at playing the part of that kind of character albeit with less charm. I don't know what happened to the charming Jesse Eisenberg of Zombieland but he holds it back most of the time. Kristen Stewart as Veronica is not unlikable but it is Kristen Stewart and Twilight shadow will forever loom above her head and it doesn't help that yet again in this movie she has to choose between two lovers. Steve Carell is believable as that prick of an uncle that we come to know through the movie and some might have a hard time with accept him in serious roles but that is not my case, I enjoy his serious roles even more than his comedic ones.

I saw a criticism of the movie's depiction of Jews as down right offensive and was amused by the idea that even a Jew director and a Jew actor can not tell a story without being called offensive and insensitive to Jews.

All in all the movie is fun and leaves you thinking about the consequences of your actions or lack of actions and while it could have a bit better pacing and some what better acting from Eisenberg and Stewart it is still another Allen movie that in my humble opinion is better than any thing else released in 2016 by the American film industry.
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5/10
Enjoyable but totally forgettable
gcarpiceci15 May 2016
This is typical Woody Allen: light and lighthearted, with just a touch of bitterness, a smile now and then.....that's all you get from the movie, enjoyable but totally forgettable; as many of Allen's movies, it leaves you with nothing. Café Society, with Storaro's help, looks very slick, every image is studied and polished with obsessive care, almost manneristic, and it falls often times into affectation. What keeps up the movie are the decent performances by the strong cast, and the as usually good dialogues. As a last remark: I found rather annoying having a narrator as voice over all along the movie, which by the way was rather unnecessary.
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Untitled review about Woody Allen film
jarrodmcdonald-127 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I have several problems with this film (and there are things I do like about it too). In no specific order, what I don't like--too much name dropping. People in the 30s didn't talk that way. The film becomes some weird kind of encyclopedia about classic film stars. And sometimes Allen has to explain who they are. He has a character mention Bill Powell, then has the character clarify this means William Powell. Everyone in Hollywood at that time would know who Bill Powell was and probably nobody called him William Powell, except fans reading his billing on screen.

The name dropping is really a problem in the party scenes. The agent keeps saying Greta Garbo is somewhere, that Joan Blondell is floating around, but it's just names, we never see them. And these are supposed to be high-powered parties, where everyone would be in attendance. It's like Woody Allen is afraid to bring them on screen and present them as real characters, which just seems silly. Can you imagine if THE AVIATOR, a story about Howard Hughes, only mentioned Katharine Hepburn, Jean Harlow and Ava Gardner and never showed them? There are plenty of celebrity impersonators Allen could have hired for these scenes.

I think Woody's voice-over narration is-- I don't want to sound mean-- not very impressive. His voice is quite shaky. He should work with a therapist to strengthen his voice or else have someone else do the narration. It kept taking me out of the story.

There's no real chemistry between the actor who plays the uncle (Steve Carrell) and the girl (Kristen Stewart) he supposedly loves so passionately. I think a sexier actor should've been used instead of Carrell. Bruce Willis was originally hired for this role and left the project, but even he doesn't seem right. Meanwhile, it seemed unusual that she had a Masters Degree and she's working as a secretary to him. She didn't really come across as a very educated girl.

What I like-- Jeannie Berlin is great as the young guy's mother back in New York. Allen should have built the movie around her. Better yet, a new film should be made with her and Julie Kavner as sisters. That would be something.

Jesse Eisenberg is good as the young lovestruck protagonist, though I do think he's forcing some Allenesque mannerisms. I like the irony that the girl in Hollywood and the girl he ends up marrying in New York have the same first name (Veronica). But I don't think Blake Lively has chemistry with Eisenberg. It's kind of like putting a young Jane Seymour with a young Woody Allen, and that doesn't quite work.

The music is wonderful. Plus the costumes are fabulous, and so are the cars and hairstyles. But a clip of Barbara Stanwyck and Gene Raymond in a film glimpsed within the film (THE WOMAN IN RED) shows that women and men from that era actually dressed a bit differently. So basically CAFE SOCIETY is relying on stereotypes and manufactured memories about the 30s; thus, it is not too authentic.
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