For the last year I’ve been terribly aware of being an apologetic Woody Allen fan. This is of course a conversation for another time but it makes me even more aware of whether or not his latest work either flops or soars. I could breath a sigh of relief when Midnight in Paris rolled into town, despite all the muddy water surrounding Allen and his work, it was hard to deny this return to form. I am yet to experience a Woody Allen film I don’t like. Even his obvious duds charm me to an extent as I find myself simply enjoying the company surrounding me. Café Society is far from being one of Allen’s greats but nowhere near one of his worst. For me, it sits adequately alongside the likes of Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Manhattan Murder Mystery; certainly enjoyable but somewhat forgettable. Café Society sees Allen returning to make movies in America for the first time in decades. With his tour of European cities at an end, we join him now within the familiar and comforting walls of dingy New York apartments and shiny Hollywood film studios. Jesse Eisenberg takes on the role that Allen himself would have filled all those years ago; Bobby, a young New Yorker who’s new in Hollywood and naïve to its superficial, cutthroat ways. A love affair ensues with Kristen Stewart’s Vonnie who is on top form in a role of true elegance and subtlety. The affair quickly becomes a triangle between the two youngsters and Bobby’s Uncle, a big time movie producer played fantastically by Steve Carrell.
As expected, Café Society looks exquisite if not, terribly whitewashed – something I found oddly disconcerting but sadly not surprising from Allen. There is complex diversity in the cinematography that the casting is shamefully lacked. Various warm colours, textures and filters dance around, enchanting us into believing into this post-war, rose-tinted world of romance and the movies. There is talk of famous stars and reference to the great movies they make, which reminds us of just how consumed by the art of cinema Allen is, particular the America greats. He himself now a relic of a time in cinema that no longer exists but that his films often remind us of and cling to. Café Society brims with nostalgia for not just the days of the studio system but for Allen’s past work too. One scene takes place around a brash and honest family dinner table which echoes back to similar moments in Crimes and Misdemeanours, a true masterpiece. The music, story and characters are as to be expected and Allen gets a good performance from Eisenberg whose recent cinematic outings have caused me to lose confidence in his ability. Café Society is a joyous return to the comedic for Allen, with certain scenes purely there for our amusement, a technique I haven’t seen Allen use for sometime and which makes a lovely return. Café Society incorporates the infatuated friendship found in Annie Hall, the bleak concepts of Crimes and Misdemeanours and the visual wonder of Midnight in Paris. It ranks highly within his post-millennium body of work and echoes back nicely to those before it.
Thank you for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.