Woody Allen’s reputation as a filmmaker has been going from strength to strength in recent years and the DVD release of his latest diamond in the rough, Cafe Society, puts another notch on his cinematic bedpost. Taking a complex love story and recreating a credible sense of the golden age of Hollywood, with a little New York charm, he’s fashioned something that has as much stability as it has style with thoroughly absorbing characters to boot.
The plot is cleverly wrough around a young Jewish twenty-something, Bobby Dorfmann (Jesse Eisenberg), who heads out to LA in an attempt to work with his bit-time movie producer uncle, Phil (Steve Carell). When he does finally land the job, he meets his uncles beautiful young secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), and it’s this evolving relationship and it’s various trials, that acts as the focal point to it all.
The cast is consistently good, without any real standout performance, but it’s the level of delivery across the board that makes the film so easy to appreciate. The chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg is weighted to perfection, building on a number of previous starring roles together, ranging from Adventureland to American Ultra. It seems as though Allen has put a lot of emphasis on the pairing and it pays off with great rapport and natural character development.
Eisenberg puts a lot of effort into being as different as possible in all of his roles and while that doesn’t always work out – Lex Luther in Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice is probably his most criticised – it’s still a commendable trait. Bobby is very different from Jack in To Rome With Love, despite it being the same actor, same director, and with a similar methodology.
It’s a trait that Steve Carrell has also been credited with as he’s adapted beyond his previous comedy confines with solid performances in Foxcatcher and The Big Short. Once again he’s a completely different character as Bobby’s uncle Phil, but with a subtle variant on his talent for playing unlikable people. Blake Lively (The Shallows) add to the grounding of the film as Bobby’s wife, Veronica, while Ken Stott (BBC’s War & Peace) and Corey Stoll (Ant-Man) bring a little more interest to the film in their portrayal of his jeweller dad Marty and gangster brother Ben.
We love the style of the cinematography, costumes and set contruction, which feels as much intentionally pastiche as it does reality for 1930s LA and New York. It works well for the big cities within the timeframe, delivering something much more solid than the somewhat glib efforts of the Coen Brothers in Hail, Caesar!.
Cafe Society is a must-see in the very least, but more importantly, its the kind of film we could watch every now and again for a fair few years, making it a contender for the DVD collection. It’s genuine, with an attempt at outlandish honesty; it’s beautifully shot and enfolded around the kind of characters that are easy to associate with, despite the glitzy circles they exist in. Simple and yet nuanced, it’s the kind of film you don’t see very often, and when you do it’s usually by Woody Allen.
Cafe Society DVD review: 4/5