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Wednesday 7 September 2016

Café Society, Film 2016 written & directed by Woody Allen, 8* out of 10

Jesse Eisenberg's great performance in the lead role give this solid Woody Allen comedy/drama/romance additional appeal. 

Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) introvert, intelligent and unhappy with working in his hen-pecked father’s (Ben Stott) small business in New York City, arrives in Los Angeles where his mother (Jeannie Berlin) tries to get him a job with her brother the successful, dynamic and ubiquitous Hollywood-agent Phil Stern (Steve Carell). When he finally meets his uncle he proves to be a talented and effective networker whose “deer caught in the headlights look” not only helps him to build up a useful business network but also to woo his uncle’s secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). 

What follows is romantic, darkish, philosophical comedy as vintage Woody Allen meets shades of The Great Gatsby and Casablanca. On the way, we see the protagonists of the drama, as well as the supporting characters from the Dorfman family, struggle with the day to day practical questions of life (noisy neighbours worsening your migraine) and the more philosophical ones (what about the after-life? They do so in a quintessentially pragmatic secular Jewish manner with the desire to requite true unrequited love between the Jewish New York boy and his Nebraska protestant girl takes the centre-stage of his inner-life.

Café Society is an undeniably Woody Allen comedy/drama with Jazz classics and narration adorning an outstanding 1930s set. The action moves inevitably between Hollywood mansions and New York City views. 

Within a competent ensemble cast, Steve Carell, Kirsten Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg give outstanding performances. The most interestingly written character is the one of the Jewish-neurotic lead played by Eisenberg, who, in contrast to Woody Allen's own "single-layer-cake" performances in this type of role over the past decades, manages to credibly show the development and complexity of a "multi-layer-cake" character.

Café Society is an enjoyable and entertaining film with an undeniable plus provided by Kirsten Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg’s Vonnie and Bobby, the handsome couple with the slow-burning will-they-won’t-they love-affair.

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