Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cafe Society

      Woody Allen returns to one of his best loved periods, the 1930's for this new romantic comedy. The film covers no new ground as it's story and structure are pretty common in Mr. Allen's filmography.

       Always writing with himself in mind for the lead but far to old to play the part, Mr. Allen finds a very capable substitute in Jesse Eisenberg as Bobby Dorfman. Bobby is a young Jewish man from the Bronx who seeks his fortune in Hollywood, hoping his Uncle Phil, a powerful Hollywood agent, will find him a job.

      Mr. Eisenberg is perfect in the role, capturing the mannerisms, vocal cadence, and rhythms of a young Mr. Allen perfectly. His Uncle Phil is played with confidence by Steve Carell, who is reluctant at first to help his nephew but grows to like him enough to give him a menial job. Once at the Agency, Bobby becomes smitten with Vonnie, Phil's secretary, played by Kristen Stewart. Ms. Stewart seems an odd choice for the love interest and while her performance is good, I can't help feeling she is miscast.

            Back home in the Bronx, Bobby's parents, Rose (played by Jeannie Berlin) and Marty (Ken Stott) worry about Bobby, his older brother Ben (a gangster played by Cory Stoll) and their daughter Evelyn (played by Sari Lennick). Blake Lively and Parker Posey round out the cast as other women who come into Bobby's life. The sub-plots involving Evelyn and her husband as well as Ben's gangster life are fillers for the central plot and exist as typical Allen characters giving voice to his common themes.

             The film has its charms (as expected from Mr. Allen, it has a great Jazz soundtrack) and is entertaining enough but it is middle of the road Allen writing, neither a hit or a miss but rather a well hit foul ball.

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