9 January 2017 | blanche-2
A life unexamined is not worth living...and a life examined is no bargain.
Leave it to Woody Allen to add that ending to a quote by Socrates.
Woody Allen is so prolific that he can't possibly knock one out of the park every time. Though "Cafe Society" has a bittersweet, thoughtful quality about it, it's not one of his best.
Jesse Eisenberg is the Woody character, Bobby, who moves to LA from the Bronx in the 1930s and drops in on his highly successful agent uncle, Phil Stern (Steve Carrell). Bobby has only been trying to see him for three weeks, but Uncle Phil finally comes through. He has Bobby work for him doing errands until he can steer him toward something better. He also asks his secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) to show Bobby around.
Bobby falls for Vonnie immediately, but unbeknownst to him, she's having an affair with his uncle, who is married. Phil decides he can't leave his wife and breaks it off with her, and she and Bobby wind up falling in love. But later, it falls to Vonnie to make a choice.
Cafe Society is a little on the slow side - the acting is good, there are a few jokes, it's historically accurate (I'm always looking for films about old Hollywood to goof up like Barton Fink), and the photography and fashions are beautiful.
Woody is talking here about the road not taken and showing us two people who think about that other road often. Of course there's no answer, but it is something we all wonder about especially as we age.
I just don't think the story was tight enough - it seemed to meander.
I'm not familiar with Kristen Stewart. She has a special beauty and a nice presence and fit into the film well. Eisenberg, like most actors doing the Woody character in Woody films, takes on some of Allen's inflections. He's likable. Steve Carrell's role does not play to his strengths but he pulls it off. Someone on this board complained about Bobby's parents. I thought Jeanie Berlin, whom I haven't seen in years, was terrific and gave a very realistic performance.
Not a heck of a lot goes on in this film - it's not serious like Crimes and Misdemeanors and it's not Bullets Over Broadway, which was a comedy with serious undertones about art. I think here Allen making a choice about which it would be may have been a good idea.