Woody Allen films tend to be on the more sophisticated and high-brow side of the Hollywood spectrum so it’s no surprise that his latest feature is entitled Café Society, a name given to the places where the aristocrats and socialites would gather. It’s also the setting for a young romance between two people who are trying to find themselves among the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. It’s not your standard love story, but then again, nothing by Allen ever is.
Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) has dreams of rubbing elbows with the elite in Los Angeles and decides to move out there from New York on a whim in the hopes that his successful talent agent uncle, Phil (Steve Carell), can hook him up with a job. At the office he meets Phil’s secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), who ends up showing him around the city. While she lives and breathes the Hollywood scene she is more infatuated with the simple things of life like little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants. The two quickly develop a romance although Vonnie admits she’s already in a relationship. Things get further complicated when that relationship turns out to be with Phil, and Vonnie must figure out where her heart truly lies.
Love is messy and rarely as straightforward as most romance films portray them, and Café Society does an excellent job at portraying the many ups and downs of a relationship as seen from all sides of this strange love triangle. Eisenberg, Carell, and Stewart are all wonderfully cast and bring a sincerity to their characters that make them believable and at times even unlikeable. Bobby is this fish out of water in Hollywood but he does manage to make it out there with the help of his uncle. At one point he moves back to New York to run a club with his gangster brother and his entire demeanor changes. He’s still the same Bobby he was in LA, but there’s this confidence he has in his hometown that was missing before. When Vonnie decides to stay with Phil she becomes more like the Hollywood starlets she previously dismissed. It’s not a bad thing; people just simply change. The love is still there, however.
Café Society is a beautifully shot film, too. The setting is split between 1930’s Los Angeles and New York, and the two couldn’t be more different. There’s a warm, orange glow to LA that makes it look like there is a constant spotlight on the city, while New York is painted in more subtle and down-to-earth blues and greens. Woody Allen does a great job at taking audiences back to the early age of Hollywood and while it looks much different than today, the atmosphere and attitudes are all still very much prevalent in today’s version.
Woody Allen’s last few films haven’t been that great, but he is back to form with Café Society. It’s charming, heartbreaking, funny, and serious. It’s a complex view of love, and while it may not go exactly where you want it to, it will no doubt keep you captivated throughout.