Woody Allen has pretty much made a film a year since the late 60’s; so it’s practically impossible to see everything that he produces and although Cafe Society was on my radar, it wasn’t necessarily something I was dying to go and watch. Yet, as fate would have it, I found myself in the local independent cinema sitting down to check out what Allen’s latest had to offer.
As with most Woody Allen films, Cafe Society takes a little while to get used to. Whereas some directors have quirky styles that you can step straight into, it takes ten to fifteen minutes to be immersed into the world according to Allen. It’s difficult to put a finger on the reason but I feel like it’s the fine line that Allen treads between reality and fantasy. Cafe Society offers up a highlighted reality which, while undoubtably well written and containing meticulously thought out dialogue, does take a little while to get used to.
However once you’re inside the world, Cafe Society offers up a compelling story with interesting characters and relationships. Jesse Eisenberg’s Bobby, decides to move from his home in New York to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood where his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) is a big shot agent living the high life with movie stars and models. Unable to find himself a job, Bobby reaches out to his Uncle for a helping hand and Phil allows him to run errands for him. He instructs his assistant Vonnie, played by a surprisingly strong Kristen Stewart, to show Bobby around town.
In typical Woody Allen fashion, Bobby immediately falls in love with Vonnie the moment he lays eyes upon her. The only problem? She’s already got a boyfriend, but she’s happy to stay friends with Bobby even after a slightly forward advance. As well as this main story arc we also take short trips back to New York where we meet the rest of Bobby’s family as they deal with their own lives and problems; his parents worry about him, his Brother lives a life of crime and his sister deals with the worst of neighbours.
As the stories unfolds, although enjoyable, it can often feel like we’re jumping from one storyline to another too quickly and a part from Bobby, Vonnie and Phil’s story the others feel slightly redundant and disconnected for most of the film. And I found myself wondering why we were being shown these characters for a lot of the film.
By the end however, the stories will entwine and why we’re being shown these stories will become clear. Cafe Society is an interesting mix of characters on story arcs and snapshots of peoples lives; sometimes walking the line between them both doesn’t always work but for the most part Allen is a good enough director to find a nice balance.
Speaking of walking the line, Eisenberg manages to stop his character, Bobby, coming off as too creepy during some points in the film. He manages to convey charisma for the most part rather than creepiness, although he gets pretty close. That’s more down to the writing though than his performance.
Woody Allen has a style. It’s not a style that is going to be for everyone and Cafe Society doesn’t break the mould. So if you aren’t a fan of his work then it probably won’t change your mind but if you haven’t seen any of his work, haven’t seen any of his films in a while or love Woody Allen then you should definitely check out Cafe Society.
GOOD. A quirky and interesting style, compelling and enjoyable dialogue, all round well acted and with a few surprising twists along the way, Cafe Society will probably be better than most of Allen’s latest work, which bar Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine, have been average.