Café Society

Sep 3, 2016 | Posted by in Movies
Cafe Society

A directionless New Yorker moves out to Hollywood so that he can find some kind of purpose in life in Woody Allen’s Café Society.

It’s a very familiar story that we will all have seen done a thousand times before. Nothing about the plot of the film will come across as surprising. Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) starts out being as naive as they come and grows to be more worldly as the film goes on, there’s a romance that helps to define the change in him and the heartbreak that normally comes with it.

Allen does a good job with the familiarity of this situation and uses it as an opportunity to focus more on the characters and their relationships rather than the mechanics of the story behind that. This film does characters very well by matching them to the perfect actors and giving them plenty of opportunity to bring the material to life in captivating ways.

Cafe SocietyEisenberg is a capable lead even though he delivers a performance reminiscent of many of his recent ones. Despite that he gives the character of Bobby a lot of depth that really allows it to stand out among his similar characters. He perfectly portrays the naivety and nervousness at the beginning of the film and the confidence he gains as the story progresses feels natural and earned. It’s easy enough to follow him and there’s comedy to be found in how clueless he is about things that otherwise seem obvious.

His main romantic interest is Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), the secretary of his Uncle Phil (Steve Carrell). At first she is tasked with showing Bobby around his new surroundings and quickly warms to him through their shared interests and effortless chemistry.

I’ve been far from impressed with Stewart in the past but she does a great job here. There’s an effortlessly likeable quality to her and she successfully puts across a simple girl with no interest in fame and fortune as well as a glamorous Hollywood wife able to fit in at showbiz parties. Later in the film she shows an impressive ability to juggle these two distinct aspects of her character without any of it seeming forced.

She also has great chemistry with Eisenberg and their romance feels natural throughout. I also like how real it felt due to the lack of the big events in their relationships being over dramatic. Complications and heartbreak hit them as you might expect but the film never overplays them which makes them feel more real. It helps that the dialogue is really well written and definitely feels like real conversations rather than dialogue written for a script.

This is definitely a film of two halves and the first half is far more interesting than the second. Bobby moving back to New York to forget about losing the love of his life and immersing himself in the nightclub lifestyle is a good idea on paper but the execution of it doesn’t quite work. So much of the big events in the second half feel rushed which really contrasts with the character development in the first. There is also a pointless subplot involving Bobby’s brother Ben (Corey Stoll) that could be cut entirely.

The introduction of Blake Lively’s Veronica so late on is a clear example of this. She is so underdeveloped that she feels like an afterthought despite how big an impact she is supposed to have made in the overall story. She feels like more of a function of the plot rather than a character in her own right which is a shame as what we see of her is interesting and she does have good chemistry with Eisenberg despite their characters seeming comically mismatched.

Café Society is a great looking film and the 1930s setting really jumps off the screen with mentions of contemporary movie stars, lavish costumes and really ornate locations. Hollywood and New York are visually distinct and have completely different tones. It’s wonderful to look at and the time period fits the overall mood wonderfully.


A fun film with entertaining characters and well written dialogue. The story takes a bit of a back seat which definitely works well as it allows the characters to be well developed. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart have really natural chemistry that makes their romance feel believable and their characters are compelling enough to carry the film. The film loses its way in the second half by feeling more rushed than the first with less well developed characters and a subplot involving Bobby’s criminal brother wasn’t necessary at all. It’s a great looking film with the 1930s setting really leaping off the screen and the well developed characters make it really easy to follow despite its flaws.

  • 7.5/10
    Café Society - 7.5/10


Kneel Before…

  • well developed characters
  • a relationship that feels real
  • natural dialogue
  • the time period being presented really well

Rise Against…

  • the weaker second half
  • a subplot that could be cut
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