★★★★ – “Genuine performances from Eisenberg & Stewart.”

Café Society is written & directed by Woody Allen and stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Corey Stoll, Blake Lively, Ken Stott and Jeannie Berlin.

In the 1930s, a young Bronx native moves to Hollywood, where he falls in love with the secretary of his powerful uncle, an agent to the stars. After returning to New York, he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life.

Woody Allen’s Café Society is one of those little pleasurable chunks of cinema that really attracts the eye, if only for its beautiful visuals and grading. Though a simple concept, the story feels cherished and carefully written, with a sense of freshness. Our main leads, Jesse Eisenberg & Kristen Stewart, appear genuine and seem to have a clear perception of their respective characters. However romantic or predictable the tale may seem, there’s always humour in sight, as a means of being astray from the typical route in romantic dramas.

General ‘cinema goers’ may not willingly accept such a film, but fans of Hollywood’s Golden Age will most certainly find enjoyment in this subtle take on the genre. As aforementioned, the cinematography is intricate in detail, highlighting the outstanding visual sets, costume design and performances on-screen. Kudos to Vittorio Storaro.

I do have a soft spot for Eisenberg’s work, but this doesn’t cloud my judgement. I find him truly great in his portrayal of Bobby, delivering some profound humour in many scenes. Stewart’s performance was as I’d imagined, though seeming more passionate than I’ve seen before. She is an alluring actress and it’s clear why she was cast in her role of Vonnie. Steve Carell, Corey Stoll, Blake Lively, Ken Stott and Jeannie Berlin all provide an average support act, further developing the screenplay in what felt to me like an effort to ’pad out’ the edges. That said, Carell’s character, Phil Stern, is as important as Eisenberg’s or Stewart’s.

Do not expect an original score when entering Café Society, though do anticipate a brilliantly curated soundtrack, featuring music by Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart and many more. It undoubtedly aids the visuals and the stunning backdrop of 1930s Hollywood and New York.

As mentioned before, the concept is simple. A love triangle that pulls at each character’s emotions. But what I find attracting in the screenplay and script is the sense of an everlasting story. When the film ends, you feel as if it could go on and on. I liked the reiterated line: “What are you thinking?” – it was an excellent decision to have it repeated throughout, in many conversations with many characters. Overall, the written work is tightly bookended.

Verdict; Café Society is a simple tale of love at first sight, and though it comes across as tragically predictable, it’s wonderful to look at. Woody Allen has provided a fairly enjoyable take on the romantic genre, with some genuine performances, humour and a story that appears interminable.

Café Society – ★★★★ (7/10)

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