Movie Review: Cafe Society

Cafe Society offers an enchanting but empty world with little concern for story, plot, and character development.

A young man (Jesse Eisenberg) arrives in Hollywood during the 1930s hoping to work in the film industry. There, he falls in love, and finds himself swept up in the vibrant café society that defined the spirit of the age.

After the success of Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen makes another nostalgia tinged movie. As always, it involves a love triangle, his stand-in, and an ingenue.

Just by the trailer alone you can tell that Cafe Society is a beautiful film. Even if you don’t know anything about cinematography, you can see that Vittorio Storaro is able to present a backdrop with a world of its own. The dark cinematography creates luscious colors, lighting highlights character interactions, and camerawork frames every scene just right, whether its a moment in a small jazz bar or Veronica and Bobby sharing a drink on a bridge with a nice view of the New York skyline.

Unfortunately, the two leads don’t have any believable romantic spark at all. Kristen Stewart is just Kristen Stewart playing dress-up in a Woody Allen film and it doesn’t help that her acting is flat. She looks misplaced next to Jesse Eisenberg. He does a great job as the stand-in for Woody Allen, but he eventually becomes annoying then boring as the script doesn’t give him anything substantial to do than go through the motions.

The rest of the cast did well with the little they were given but they’re also convenient caricatures. Sadly, there’s no one to root for in this movie – Vonnie is in love with two men, Uncle Phil is that vintage fuckboy who thinks he’s a victim of his own feelings, and Bobby is the designated adorkable hero turned cool cat.

Apart from lack of character development, the script doesn’t care much for the story either. As Woody Allen narrates the movie, the plot breezes through as the audience is told what’s happening instead being shown. These string of events take place in detailed but overly polished set pieces where none of the interiors look lived-in. The production design is admirable, but they function as accessories rather than details.

In the end, what you have is a pretty inconsequential film. Yes it is able to tell us that what we want is not always what we need and life’s grand distractions make us miss the little things that truly matter, but all of that registers as nothing more than a forgettable platitude in a gilded golden frame.

My Rating: 5/10

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