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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