Monday, August 1, 2016

[Review] Café Society

This year's Woody Allen film takes a dive into throwback-era Hollywood, and sees Adventureland co-stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart reuniting for the third time. Café Society is light, charming, and fluffy stuff that also looks glamorous.

1930s. Bobby (Eisenberg) travels from the Bronx to Hollywood, in hopes to break into the entertainment industry with some help from his hotshot agent uncle (Steve Carell). In the process, Bobby falls for the company's secretary and aspiring actress, Vonnie (Stewart). Starry-eyed melodrama ensues, a sticky love triangle forms, and there's even some Goodfellas-lite mafia activity.

The setting and story is indeed remarkably familiar territory, but this is still an enjoyable romp. As you'd expect, the script is sharp and talky--containing bundles of Tinseltown lingo, chuckle-worthy exchanges, and juicily awkward moments. The film's refreshingly vintage period detail is showcased with a fittingly polished sheen under glitzy, flattering light. The tone is drenched in nostalgia, similar to the way that Midnight in Paris captured old Paris.

The performances are great across the board. Jesse Eisenberg thrives within the Woody Allen aesthetic. Kristen Stewart is stellar with her alluring expressions (I think a lot of people are still sleeping on her post-Twilight talents). Steve Carell continues to transform into a serious chameleon. I also had to fist pump when Tony Sirico aka Paulie Walnuts from "The Sopranos" made a brief appearance.

About midway through, there's a turning point where Café Society loses most of its conflict and intrigue. It's still watchable, but it goes through a period of meandering before it picks back up during the final act. The payoff and conclusion might underwhelm some audiences, but it's consistent with the film's straightforward themes: People change. Places change. But some feelings never die.

( 7/10 )

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