Review: Café Society

Café Society rolls back the clock to 1930s Hollywood to tell a tale of nostalgia and love with strong, funny performances from leads Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart.

Woody Allen might well be 81 in December but, in a flurry of activity in recent years, he’s given us a formidable run of films from charming multi–plot–threaded comedy (To Rome With Love) to dark existentialist–angst comedy (Irrational Man). Here he opts for a warm and nostalgic study of old Hollywood and the unpredictability of love.

In the 1930s we meet Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg again channeling Woody just like Kenneth Branagh, John Cusack, Scarlett Johansson and others before him), a Bronx native who leaves his very Allen–esque Jewish family to try his luck in a sweetly–realised Hollywood. Bobby’s uncle Phil (Steve Carell, although it was very nearly Bruce Willis) is a big–time talent agent and agrees to employ Bobby in a variety of menial tasks, and assigns his secretary Veronica (Kristen Stewart) to help him settle in. While the naïve Bobby goes for her in a big way, she warns that she has an older boyfriend who’s sure to marry her soon.

Naturally, and of course, there’s a twist here, and surely you can guess it, this leads to a series of complications, as some funny subplots are thrown in to distract us, including Corey Stoll’s scarily cool turn as Ben the gangster (who owes something to Chazz Palminteri’s baddie in Woody’s Bullets Over Broadway). While another Veronica (this one played by Blake Lively) turns up after Bobby undergoes a change in career direction, the tone turns surprisingly sad, and you’re left wondering if maybe Woody regrets a few of his life decisions too.

More enjoyable than last year’s Irrational Man, this has several familiar faces in smaller parts (Scottish character actor Ken Stott, Pitch Perfect’s Anna Camp, Woody fave Parker Posey), yet Eisenberg and Stewart are the focus, and both are very fine and winningly funny. In fact, this is surely the movie that will allow Stewart to finally be forgiven for those bloody Twilight epics, and she certainly looks great in the ‘30s fashions and those vaguely anachronistic sunglasses.

Rated M. Café Society is in cinemas now.

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