CAFE SOCIETY — Review by Susan Granger
“The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble…” but Wood Allen continues to churn out one movie each year. From classic Manhattan comedies (Annie Hall) to memorable character studies (Blue Jasmine) to stylish crime-capers (Match Point), that’s something moviegoers can count on. Set in the 1930s, this is a bittersweet coming-of-age tale, as eager, earnest Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) moves from the Bronx to Hollywood, where he goes to work for his pretentious Uncle Phil (Steve Carrell), a name-dropping, big-time talent agent. Read on…
Not surprisingly, Bobby immediately falls in love with Phil’s pretty secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), who drives him to see movie stars’ mansions in Beverly Hills.
“Menial errands are my specialty,” Bobby guilelessly explains, “but I don’t see a great future in it.”
Trying not to be intoxicated by the shallow glitz and schmoozing gossip, he, nevertheless, marvels, “I’ve never mixed Champagne with bagels and lox.”
Narrated by Woody Allen, romantic complications abound, so brokenhearted Bobby returns to his working-class Jewish family in New York, where he goes into the nightclub business with his gangster brother Ben (Corey Stahl), marries a blonde socialite, also named Veronica (Blake Lively), and they have a baby.
Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) comes as close to channeling Woody Allen’s neurotic nebbish as anyone ever has on-screen. He propels the plot, as his character’s romantic dreams mature into sophisticated melancholia, while Kristen Stewart is convincingly caught between two men who adore her.
FYI: when Bruce Willis dropped out, Steve Carrell stepped in. And the superb supporting ensemble (Parker Posey, Ken Stott, Anna Camp, Jeannie Berlin and Paul Schneider) turns what could be caricatures into relatable characters.
Aided by production designer Santo Loquasto, Italian cinematographer Vittorio Stororo evokes the nostalgic glamour of Tinsel-Town’s Golden Age and the excitement of Manhattan’s swanky, Depression-Era cabaret scene, known as “the wrong place for the right people.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Café Society” is a vintage, wistful 7 – with a jazzy soundtrack worth savoring.