Woody Allen, is not what you would call a very “versatile” director, like Kubrick and Spielberg. Of course, he does have some films, that would go under this category, such as Blue Jasmine and Crimes and Misdemeanors, but most of his films follow a certain pattern. And to be honest, that’s okay. If you have a formula that works with your plots, then go with it. As long as you try something new, visually and aesthetically with a couple different characters sprinkled in. Allen does this greatly, creating films that you may have seen before, but still would resonate you because of that little sprinkle of magic, that makes the Woody Allen film that you’re watching, a bit different from the rest of his films. He does his formula pretty well, and this defiantly counts in his new film, Café Society. It has what you need in a traditional Woody Allen film. Sharp dialogue, a romantic interest, a setting that has a great production design (preferably to be taken place in the past), and a Jew (or in this case, a Jewish family!) Society has it all. And in the end, I came out of the film, smiling with delight. Even though the film is flawed, there’s a lot to dive into about this fun feature film.
First, the aesthetic! Similar to Midnight in Paris, it has the traditional black and white titles at the start which indicates who stars in the film in alphabetical order and much more. The two settings, Hollywood and New York, felt very natural in its design. The design also contributes with the costumes as well. Similar to Hail Caesar!, but a bit better in execution, Café Society has great clothing that matches the characters persona’s and identity’s. Also in the environment discussion, I felt the film was surprisingly more violent than it was going to be. Legit, there was some serious blood shit that happened in this movie. What surprised me the most, is that the Canadian rating didn’t even mention violence! Just language and Tabaco use! Yeah, I saw the trailer, and I did see bobby being roughed up, but this was one BIG surprise. A wonderful surprise in-fact. I thought the action, like the production design of the film, matched with the time period it was indicating. Also, just a random fact to put out there, Café Society is the first Woody Allen film to be filmed with Digital Camera’s. I’m sorry, for the random fact, just felt it was right… Anyway, other than the style or “environment” of the film, what’s also good?
The performances, especially Steve Carell who plays a mildly dysfunctional Hollywood studio executive. He matches his performance with care, which makes some of the twists and turns, more shocking. This also goes for Corey Stoll, who plays Ben, the brother of our main protagonist, Bobby, who is basically your out of control, family loving, gangster. Other stand outs, were Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Jeannie Berlin, and Anna Camp. The only performance that I felt was kind of weak was Blake Lively. She was okay…. Kind of like Ana de Armas in War Dogs, but she just plays her lines just fine! Good enough for the final cut of the film, but not enough to get a best supporting actress award, or even a nomination. Heck, maybe not even a recognition for her work on the film.
And now the negative. I felt the later second act, to the end of the film, felt quite unnecessary. It was basically a bunch of subplots that were entertaining at first, but later graded on me. Lots could have been cut out, and the film would have had the same morals and “identity.” Another complaint, which takes place in the third act, is that I felt, Bobby, our main protagonist, felt unnecessarily manipulative. Yeah, I know, something did happen earlier on in the plot, but that tone in his personality and confidence just felt out of place. Other than that, Café Society is a hell of a good time. With a great aesthetic, some stand out performances, and great music, Café Society will remain as one of the more memorable films of 2016.
Picture Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4513674/mediaindex?ref_=tt_pv_mi_sm