Café-Society-2

The new Woody Allen movie Café Society is a return to the director’s popular theme of romanticizing the past. Sometimes this setup can work out brilliantly – Midnight in Paris, Bullets Over Broadway, and Sweet and Lowdown. Sometimes it doesn’t go over so well – Curse of the Jade Scorpion/Magic in the Moonlight. Stuck somewhere between these two extremes, Café Society is a safe, but utterly charming little movie. It’s the kind of film that Allen can write in his sleep.

Set in the 1930s, an eager young Bronx man named Bobby –insert Jesse Eisenberg playing the ‘Woody Allen’ type- moves out to Los Angeles to work for his uncle Phil, a wheeling and dealing Hollywood agent. Bobby quickly falls for Phil’s beautiful and smart assistant Vonnie, who’s played with ease by Kristen Stewart. Unbeknown to Bobby, Vonnie is having an affair with his uncle, making it difficult for him to completely win her affection. When the pursuit of Vonnie’s hand doesn’t quite go as planned Bobby returns to New York City. Moving back to New York proves to be successful move for him when he goes into business with his mob brother (Corey Stoll), and he’s swept up in the vibrant world of nightclub life.

The  actors execute the film’s almost Fitzgerald-like story structure wonderfully. Almost reading like a novel, the juxtaposition of the two clashing coastal societies is a clever route, but not entirely new ground for Allen. The cast here is exceptional, and the reason to check out this movie alone. Eisenberg fits into the role nicely as does his romantic lead Stewart. Vonnie has a throwback charm to her, and is a good fit for the actress. This probably won’t be the last time Stewart will work with the director since she seems like a natural fit for his material.

One of Café Society’s strengths is the supporting cast. Corey Stoll is great in everything he does, and is fun to watch in the role of the mobster brother Ben. He played Ernest Hemingway for Allen in Midnight in Paris, and is equally right at home in this role. A scene stealing Sari Lennick plays his doting sister Evelyn. Also, watch for a well-used Parker Posey, playing a stylish acquaintance who helps Ben navigate Hollywood, and introduces him to the gorgeous socialite Veronica (Blake Lively).

A lightweight Allen film if there ever was one, this outing will probably be a niche favorite with fans of the director.  It will probably go down as one of his more underrated films that are overshadowed by his better work. The hard to resist Café Society captures that effortless Woody charm beautifully.