Over the years, Allen had a fair share of hits as well as failures. Everyone would agree that he is a horrible human being, but there is no denying his talent as an actor and filmmaker. Spending almost a half-decade each working with companies such as MGM, Sony, Dreamworks, and the Weinstein Company, he is now working with Amazon Studios (sister company of Lionsgate).
Continuing his tradition of releasing one movie every year, Woody Allen brings the audience back to the 1930s with Café Society (his first film with the company). A time where the Depression was in full swing. But it didn’t stop people from moving out of their poor hometowns in search of something exciting. Movies have become the biggest escape of the era. Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper were among the many actors to pay attention. It might not be a masterpiece, but it is a step-up from his last two disappointments—Magic in the Moonlight and Irrational Man.
Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) leaves the devastation of the Bronx for Hollywood. He lands a job with his uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a talent agent. He is introduced to Phil’s secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart, in the performance of her career), and falls for her almost immediately. She shows him around Hollywood until Bobby becomes depressed and moves back to the Bronx to run a nightclub owned by his brother Ben (Corey Stoll), who works in the Mafia. He can’t stop thinking of Vonnie.
Unlike his last two films, Allen captures the beauty and charm of Hollywood’s Golden Era, kudos to his witty yet occasionally stale screenplay. It’s about trying to embrace the American Dream during a rough time in history. As the off-beat Allenesque protagonist, Eisenberg fits the role perfectly; his wisecracks about being Jewish is classic Allen. His chemistry with Stewart is what makes the movie worth it. With a fine cast (Steve Carell is also very good as the cynical uncle) and that gorgeous vintage feel, Café Society feels like stepping into a dream.
As Bobby says momentarily, “Life is a comedy written by a sadistic comedy writer.” I couldn’t say it better myself.