For Reel

Café Society (2016)
August 5, 2016, 9:52 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Woody Allen
2.5 Stars
Cafe SocietyWoody Allen’s turn to digital filmmaking and to cinematographer Vittorio Storaro is essential for the Los Angeles of Café Society, demonstrated by sunburnt surface pleasures that prove too intoxicating to resist even for those who should know better. That unrequited Hollywood dreams are present throughout the film is evocative of its ethos—this is a film about chance and disappointments, and about how sometimes life forces one to make decisions without knowing whether or not they will prove to be the right one. Like Manhattan, it’s a film of “what if?”s, with an appropriately bittersweet series of close-ups in the final scene to punctuate the point. Unfortunately, even for late period Allen, there is a distinct feeling of sluggishness—the voiceover narration from Allen sounds like it was recorded in a single take, the dialogue is less natural than usual, and the actors struggle to look like they’re doing anything more than playing dress up. There’s a subplot involving Corey Stoll (who continues to be a fascinating screen presence despite barely saying a word) that one thinks will amount to more than a tangential B plot and yet it never does. Jesse Eisenberg’s Bobby Dorfman is never taken to task for his actions throughout the film—instead, the potential romantic missed connection is put on the shoulders of Kristen Stewart’s Vonnie, the implication being that if she misses her chance then she’s the one who’s screwed everything up. Perhaps it’s appropriate that a film about the messiness of life plays like a rough draft. The delightful Jeannie Berlin contributes some effective cheap laughs and Stewart excels at externalizing her fraught internal conflict, but the film lacks the edge and complexity of even substandard recent Allen fare like Irrational Man and Magic in the Moonlight.

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