Ever since the release of Annie Hall in 1977, Woody Allen has written, at least one movie every year and directed the majority of them. It is a streak of success, unlike anything in pop culture history. While there have been a few of these movies that have been somewhat forgettable, when he hits on all points, the movies are UNforgettable.
Allen’s latest release, Cafe Society, has many of the trademarks that we have come to recognize in various Woody Allen films. Set in the 1930’s during the golden age of show business and Hollywood in general, Allen once again brings together a cast of actors who perfectly embodies their characters.
When young Bobby Dorfman wants to leave life in New York City and try his hand at life in Tinseltown, he seeks the help of his uncle, big time movie star agent, Phil Stern played by Steve Carell. Phil soon gives him a job doing menial errands around town and introduces him to young Vonnie and asks her to show him around town. As Bobby begins making contacts in the industry and moves his way up in the business, he is also falling deeply in love with Vonnie. Even though he knows she has a boyfriend, he stays persistent and when she finds herself single again he is right there for her. They soon begin dating and Bobby realizes that his heart is back in New York and wants Vonnie to marry him and move back east with him.
Vonnie soon finds herself having to choose between Bobby and the return of her former lover. Heartbroken and jilted by the entire industry, Bobby returns home to New York and begins working for his gangster brother running the hottest nightclub in the city. With help from contacts previously made in L.A. Bobby becomes quite the nightclub tycoon and meets a stunning young woman who shares the same name as the woman who broke his heart a couple of years earlier.
Life seems to be going smoothly for Bobby until years later when Vonnie walks back into his life right through his nightclub doors. Soon his brother is entangled in serious legal troubles and Bobby finds himself once again desiring the unattainable Vonnie.
The very talented Jesse Eisenberg is just perfect for the role of Bobby, in fact, he is a perfect actor for any movie Woody Allen wants to cast him in. He has the perfect ability to deliver Allen’s dialogue with the same nervous and neurotic tone that has become his trademark. Kristen Stewart is cast as Vonnie, a young woman working in Hollywood who has held on to her small town mentality which is one of the many reasons Bobby falls so hard for her. Eisenberg and Stewart are no strangers to each other, in fact, this is their third film together, all of which they play lovers, so the chemistry is clearly there and they definitely make it work.
Woody has always had a love affair with the time period of the 1930’s and 40’s. It’s an era of movie and music that he has a passion for and a knowledge like no other. He incorporates his jazz, love and shows the inside of movie palaces like those of his youth.
Allen makes more references to his childhood than he has since the film Radio Days, which was loosely autobiographical. Such references include, Bobby’s parents constantly arguing and often over meaningless topics, and a neighbor with no regard for those who live around him. Allen also narrates the film, although he never appears on screen, much like Radio Days.
Cafe Society is the third Woody Allen film to open the historic Cannes Film festival and what a perfect choice it was. Cafe is not funny in the traditional sense like other Allen movies have been, yet it is not weighed down with the seriousness of some of his past films such as Blue Jasmine or even Match Point. There is a lighthearted appeal while deep down the film is about love and the mess it can make in one’s life as well as the rescue it can be. How it can change a person and their views, but also how love can be impossible to get rid of.